20 VOLUMES IN THE SERIES
1. Folk Tales of Kashmir by Bani Roy Chaudhury
2. Folk Tales of Tamil Nadu by K.A. Seethalakshmi
3. Folk Tales of Assam by Mira Pakrasi
4. Folk Tales of Orissa by Shanti Mohanty
5. Folk Tales of Gujarat by Tara Bose
6. Folk Tales of Bengal by Geeta Mazumdar
7. Folk Tales of the Santhals by Indu Roy Chaudhury
8. Folk Tales of Bihar by Mira Pakrasi
9. Folk Tales of NEFA by B.K. Borgohain
10. Folk Tales of Kerala by K. Jacob
11. Folk Tales of Nagaland, Manipur & Tripura by B.K.
12. Folk Tales of Rajasthan by Bani Roy Chaudhury
13. Folk Tales of Himachal Pradesh by K.A. Seethalakshmi
14. Folk Tales of Mysore by K.M. Nair
13. Folk Tales of Punjab by Ajeet Kaur
16. Folk Tales of Madhya Pradesh
17. Folk Tales of Uttar Pradesh
18. Folk Tales of Andhra Pradesh
19. Folk Tales of Maharashtra and Goa
20. Folk Tales of Haryana
STERLING PUBLISHERS (P) LTD.
NEW DELHI-16 JULLUNDUIW
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
STERLING PUBLISHERS (P) LTD.
JuIlundur-3 : 695, Model Town
New Delhi-16 : AB/9 Safdarjung
First Edition 1 960
PRINTED IN INDIA
Published by Shri S.K. Ghai, Managing Director, Sterling Publishers (P) Ltd.
and printed at Today & Tomorrow's Printers & Publishers, Fandabad, Haryana.
GENERAL EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION
Folklore in the different parts of India is a rich legacy for us.
While researches in ancient and modern history have been directed
r in recent decades more to the succession of kings and political
shifts not much notice has been paid to the culture/ complex
traditions and social beliefs of the common people. The sociologists
have also to pay a good deal of attention to the customs and beliefs
of the people and changes therein through the ages. They have
rather neglected the study of folklore which a reliable index to
the background of the people. There iias always been an
easy mobility of folklore through pilgrimages, melas and fairs.
The wandering minstrels, sadhus and fakirs have also dissemnated
them. People of the North visiting the temples of the South and
vice versa carry their folk-tales, songs, riddles and proverbs with
them and there is an inconspicuous integration. The dharamsalas,
inns and the Chattis (places of rest where the pilgrims rest and
intermingle) worked as the clearing house for the folk tales, tradi-
tional songs and riddles. That is why we find a somewhat common
pattern in folk literature of different regions. The same type
of folk tale will be found in Kashmir and in Kerala with slight
regional variation. These stories were passed on from generation
to generation by word of mouth before they came to be reduced
Folklorists have different approaches to the appreciation of
folklore. Max Muller has interpreted the common pattern in folk
literature as evidence of nature-myths. Sir L. Gomme thought
that a historical approach is the best for the study of folklore. But
Frazer would rather encourage a commonsense approach and
to him, old and popular folk literature is mutually interdependent
and satisfies the basic curiosities and instincts of man. That folklore
is a vital element in a living culture has been underlined in recent
years by scholars" like Malinowski and Radcliffe Brown.
It is unfortunate that the study of folklore in India is of
very recent origin. This is all the more regrettable because the
Panchatantra stories which had their origin in Bihar had spread
through various channels almost throughout the world. As late as in
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
1859, T. Benfey had held that there is an unmistakable stamp of
Indian origin in most of the fairy tales of Europe. The same stories
with different twists or complexes have come back to us through
Grimm and Aesop and the retold stories are greedily swallowed
by our children. That India has neglected a proper study of the
beautiful motifs of our folk tales is seen in the fact that the two
large volumes of the dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend
published *by Messrs Funk and Wagnalls and Company of New
York have given a very inadequate reference to India.
What is the secret of the fascination of the folk tales
that the old, the young and children are kept enthralled by their
recitals ? The same story is often repeated but does not lose its
interest. The secret is the satisfaction that our basic curiosity
finds in the folk tales. The folk tales through phantasies, make-
belief and complacent understanding help primitive man to
satisfy his curiosity about the mysteries of the world and parti-
cularly the very many inexplicable phenomena of nature around
him. We have an element of primitiveness in our mind in spite
of the advancement of science around us. Even a scientist finds
great delight in the fairy tales of the moon being attacked as the
origin of the lunar eclipse. Through the folk tales man exercised
his once-limited vision and somehow or the other we would
like to retain that limited vision even when we have grown up.
The advancement in science can never replace the folk tales. On
the other hand, folk tales have helped the scientific curiosity
of men. In spite of the scientific explanation as to why earth-
quakes take place, the old, the young and children would still
be delighted to be told that the world rests on the hood of
a great snake and when the snake is tired with its weight,
it shakes the hood and there is an earthquake. Among the
Mundas, an aboriginal tribe in Bihar, there is a wonderful expla-
nation of the constellation Orion. The sword and belt of Orion,
the Mundas imagined, form their appropriate likeness to the plough
and plough-share which the supreme Sing Bonga God first shaped
in the heavens and then taught people on earth how to use the plough
and the plough-share. It is further said in the Munda folk tale that
while the Sing Bonga was shaping the plough and the plough-share
with a chisel and a hammer he observed a dove hatching its eggs at
a little distance. The Sing Bonga threw his hammer at the dove to
GENERAL EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION
bag tbe game. He missed bis mark and the hammer went over the
dove’s head and hung on a tree. The hammer corresponds to the
Pleiads which resembles a hammer. The Aldebaran is the dove
and the other stars of Hyades are the eggs of the dove. Any
illiterate Munda boy will unmistakably point out these star groups.
Weather and climate have their own stories and are often
connected with particular stages of the crops. The wet season
and the hottest month are intimately associated with the ripening
of crops or the blossoming of trees or the frequency of dust storms
and stories are woven round them. But nothing is more satisfying
as a folk story than the explanation of the phases of the stars, moon
and the sun. A Munda would point out the milky way as the
Gai Hora i.e. the path of the cows. The Sing Bongo God leads
his cows every day along this path— the dusky path on the sky is
due to the dust raised by the herd. The dust raised by th„- cows
sends down the rains. A story of this type can never fail to
sustain its interest in spite of all the scientific explanation of the
The “why and therefore” of the primitive mind tried to
seek an answer in the surrounding animal and plant kingdom.
Animals are grouped into different categories according to their
intelligence and other habits. The fox is always sly while the
cow is gentle. The lion and the tiger have a majestic air while
the horse is swift, sleek and intelligent. The slow-going
elephant does not forget its attendant nor does he forget a man that
teases him. Monkeys are very close to man. The peacock is gay
while the crow is shrewd. The tortoise is slow-going but sure-
footed. The hare is swift but apt to laze on the road. The pri-
mitive mind has enough intelligence to decipher these inherent
characteristics of the common animals he meets. Similarly,
when he sees a large and shady peepal tree he naturally regards
it as the abode of the sylvan god. The thick jungle with its trees
and foliage is known to be frequented by thieves and dacoits.
Any solitary hut in the heart of the forest must be associated with
someone unscrupulous or uncanny. These ideas are commonly
woven into stories and through them the primitive mind seeks to
satisfy the eternal why and how of the mind. Folk literature is often
crude and even grotesque. The stories of the witches and the
ogres come in this category. There is nothing to be surprised
FOLK TALES OF - ORISSA
at that. They reflect the particular stage of the development of the
human mind and also are a projection of the beliefs and fads of the
mind. Scientific accuracy should never be looked for in folk tales
although folk tales are a very good reflex of the social developments
of a particular time.
It is enough if the basic ideas regarding the animal and plant
kingdom still satisfy that the donkey is dense or stupid and the snake
typifies slyness and the fox is deceitful. These ideas repeated in anci-
ent folk tales have stood the test of time and this would show that the
primitive mind was not foolish or credulous. The very idea that the
folk tales have woven man, nature, animal and plant creation together
shows the great flight of imagination and a singular development of
mind. Introduction of moral lessons or any dogma was not done
as an after-thought but came in as a very natural development.
The last source of the folk tales is human society itself. The
elemental moorings that are at the root of human society are sought
to be illustrated in folk tales. The day-to-day life of the common
man finds its full depiction in the folk tales. Parental love, family
happiness, children’s adventurous habits, love and fear of the
unknown, greed etc. are some of the usual themes of folk tales.
The common man yearns for riches and comforts he cannot usually
look for. He dreams of riches, princes, kingdoms etc. and finds
satisfaction in stories of fantasy. Men love gossip and scandal.
Women cannot keep secrets, children will love their parents, a
mother-in-law will always think the daughter-in-law needs to
be told what to do — these are some of the basic ideas that make up
much of our daily life. The folk tales are woven round them and
whether fantastic or with a moral undertone they only reflect
the daily chores, tears and joys of the common man.
Unknowingly, the folklorists bring in the religious customs,
beliefs, food habits, modes of dress, superstitions etc. and thereby
leave a picture of the culture-complex of the region and its people.
A tribid story does not picture a king riding a white big foaming
horse followed by hundreds of other horsemen going for a shikar.
In a tribal story the Raja will be found cutting the grass and bringing
back a stack of it to feed his cows, but a folk tale more current
in urban areas will have large palaces, liveried-servants, ministers
and courtiers in the king’s court. All this only means that the time
and the venue of the origin of the stories are widely different. It
GENERAL EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION
is here that the sociologists and the anthropologists come in useful.
As life is different in rural and urban areas or is chequered with
goodness or badness in the world so is folk literature diversified,
as it must be, being a replica of life.
It is a pity that these beautiful folk tales in India were almost
on the point of disappearance when a few pioneers mostly consisting
of foreign missionaries and European scholars looked into them and
made compilations in different parts of India. Our present run
of grandmothers know very little of them. The professional story
tellers who were very dearly sought after by the old and the young,
not to speak of the children, have almost completely disappeared
from India. The film industry and the film s vugs pose a definite
threat to folklore.
The Sterling Publishers arc to be congratulated for launching
the project of publishing a compilation of 20 volumes consVting
of the folk talcs of different regions . The work- has been entrusted
to specially selected writers who have an intimate knowledge of
their region. The regional complex of the stories has been sought
to be preserved as far as possible. The stories have an elemental
involvement about them and they are such as are expected to
appeal to the child and its parents. We expect the reader of the
folk tales of the particular region to feel after reading the
stories, that he has enjoyed a whiff of the air of that area. We
want him to have an idea of how Kashmiri folks retire in wintry
night with the Kangri under the folds of their clothes to enjoy a
gossip and how they enjoy their highly spiced meaty food. We
want him to appreciate the splash of the colours of the sari and the
flowers that are a must in Tamil Nadu. We want him to know the
stories that are behind some of the famous temples in the South such
as the Kanjeevaram temple. We want him to know the story regard-
ing the construction of the famous Konarak temple. We want him to
enjoy the stories of the heroes of Gujarat, Punjab and Rajasthan in
their partic ular roles. We want the reader to have an idea of the
peace and quiet of a hut in the lap of the Kumaon hills. We want
the reader to enjoy some of the folk tales of Bengal and Bihar that
have found wings in other parts of India and to appreciate the
village life with its Alpana and Bratas. At the same time we want
the reader to appreciate the customs and manners of the Santhals,
Garos, and the other tribes inhabiting Nefa and Assam.
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
The Publishers want to have a miniature India in these volumes
of folk tales of the different regions of India. It is an ambitious
project. The authors have to be thanked for their interest in the
work. I am sure they have enjoyed the assignment. It is hoped
the books will be found useful and interesting to the public. I
have no hesitation in saying that the stories of the different areas do
make out a miniature India. It is hoped the reader will enjoy the
stories and will come to know a little of the region and its
P.C. Roy Chaudhury
Folk Tales are popular and numerous in Orissa. But few, till
now, have been written in English. I have attempted to present
only some of the popular folk tales of Orissa.
Many of the folk tales which have come down to us in this
generation, have an ancient origin. These tales have no authors
as authorship is now understood. They were not written out as
books and were transmitted orally. This was a popular and
effective vehicle for their dissemination at a time when illi-
teracy was widely prevalent. Often, these stories were nai rated
by pilgrims to one another in their long ■ journeys. Some-
times, they were narrated in the temple courtyards, where the village
folk gathered in large numbers on festive occasions. But perhaps,
the most common vehicles of transmission were the grand-
mothers. Their intense faith in the reality of the stories contributed
largely to their existence even to this day. The grandchildren,
with gaping mouths, listened in wonder and the stories never faded
from their memories.
As might be expected, the tales went through different
variations and adopted different local colours as they passed from
person to person and from generation to generation. It is not sur-
prising to note that more or less similar stories are prevalent even
in distant states of India, owing mostly to the fact that pilgrims
from different parts of this large country often congregated at the
famous all-India pilgrimage centres, especially at Puri.
Orissa’s civilization and culture go back to very ancient times.
Owing to a series of factors, this ancient land remained in compara-
tive poverty and its ancient glory was little known to modern civili-
zation. The rivers with their periodical floods and the frequent
droughts have put the country to various hardships. Superstition
was a factor in the life of the people. Men feared the unknown
and attributed many things to the supernatural. Misfortunes and
sorrows were attributed to the wrath of the gods. The folk tales
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
of Orissa project the* hardships, fears, struggles, superstition and
poverty of the people.
The Oriyas were great builders of temples and the land is full of
beautiful temples. This fact, too, has influenced some of the stories.
The folk tales of Orissa are distinctive in character inasmuch
as many of the stories depict Orissa’s ancient trade with far off lands
like Java, Sumatra, Bali etc. Therefore, merchants, boats and
maritime trade occur in quite a number of the stories.
Here it would be only fair to mention that Orissa’s gratitude is
due to the labours, in recent times, of Sri Gopal Chandra Praharaj,
Dr. Kunja Behari Das, Sri Sridhara Das and others, who have
collected and compiled some of the folk tales. Perhaps, a good
many of these stories would have disappeared, but for the labours
of these pioneers.
1. Why Dharmapada Sacrificed His Life .. .. 17
2. Thb Kino Who Was Called a Sweeper . . 25
3. Sudarsan Gains Wisdom After Many Ex-
4. Why a British Captain Bowed Before a Rebel Chief 37
5. A Rani’s Revenge 41
6. The Cowherd And The Witch 45
7. Tapoyee ' .. 51
8. The Conch Shell 59
9. The Mahajan’s Sons 62
10. Nothing Is Lost If God Saves . . . . 69
11. A Noble Sacrifice 73.
12. How Kasia Met Kapila 76
13. A Lazy Brahman And What Happened To Him 80
14. What God Allows Is For Man’s Good . . 84
15. Why The Miser Lost His Wealth . . . . 87
16. The Story Of Ramdhol 92
17. Four Rules Of Conduct 97
18. Man’s Destiny Is Not In His Hands .. .. 104
19. Punishment For Breaking A Vow .. .. 107
20. The Two Friends - 111
WHY DHARMAPADA SACRIFICED
O RTSS A is the land of many splendid and
gracious temples. The finest of the temples is that
of Konarka. This temple was built by Narasimha
Deva, a great king who ruled in Utkal 1 hundreds of
years ago. It took twelve hundred artisans twelve
long years to build this temple. The King had chosen
the best artisans of the land for this work. He had
ordered that none of the builders coi Id visit his home
until the temple was completed.
The chief architect of the temple was Bisu
Maharana. When Bisu left home to work on the
temple, his wife was expecting a child. Some months
later a son was bom to him, but the father was not
allowed to leave his work and go home to see his
Twelve years rolled by, yet Bisu could not see
his son. In the meantime, the lovely baby grew up
into a handsome boy. His mother adored him and
bestowed great care on his upbringing. She named
him “Dharmapada” and sometimes, lovingly called
him “Dharma”. She took care to see that her son
learned the craft of his forefathers. She taught him
the art of temple-building. Even as a child Dharma-
pada showed keen interest in this art. He spent hours
building toy temples and forts in stone or wood.
Those who saw his handiwork, wondered at his skill.
They said that Dharma would one day become a great
When he was five years old, he was sent to the
village school. The boy had a keen intellect and
1. Another name for Orissa,
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
quickly learnt his lessons. His teachers liked him,
his friends loved him, but there were some boys who
were jealous of him.
One day, in the school, as the boys were writing,
Dharma’s chalk slipped from his fingers and rolled
away from him. He asked one of his class-mates
to pick it up for him. The boy not only refused to
pick it up but also insulted Dharma. “Who are
you to order me? Whose son do you think you are?”
he asked rudely. A few other boys joined together
and said, “Yes, yes. Tell us your father’s name.
Have you ever seen him?*' Dharma was confused.
He did not know what to say. The boys teased him,
“Oh, no, you have no father,” and they laughed at
him. Poor Dharmapada felt insulted and returned
His mother was worried to find the son in a
sorrowful mood. “Why are you so sad, my child?”
she asked. “Ever since your father left home to
build the temple at Chandrabhaga 1 you have been
the only joy in my life. Tell me truly, what grieves
“Mother, I have never seen my father. Why
does he not come home? Today my class-mates
insulted me by saying I have no father,” replied
Dharmapada in anguish.
“What! You have no father! Who dare
say so ? Believe me, your father is the chief architect
of the finest temple that is being built. I have told
you this before. You belong to a noted family of
builders. They have built many temples and fortresses
in this land of Utkal. Anyone should be proud of
such ancestry,” said his mother.
1. The ancient name of the place Konarka. In olden times it was a famo us
place of pilgrimage.
WHY DHARMAPADA SACRIFICED HIS LIFE 19
“Oh mother, I know the boys at school are
jealous of me. Now I understand. But please tell
me more about my father and my forefathers.”
“Listen, my child, your forefathers helped in the
building of the great temple of Jagannath at ‘Srikhetra’ 1 .
When the temple was completed, they were rewarded
by King Indradyumna. Years later, when Emperor
Kharavela had the beautiful caves at Khandagiri
carved out of rocks, it was your forefathers who did
the work. Again, King Lalatendu Deva engaged
your ancestors to build the great temple of Shiva
at ‘Ekamrakanana’ 2 . Years later your grand-
father went to repair the ‘Barabati’ 3 fortress at ‘Katak’.
He died there before the work was completed a id he
never returned home. You belong to the family of
such famous builders, who have left their mark on
all the beautiful temples and forts of Utkal.”
“Oh mother, I wish to prove worthy of my an-
cestors,” said Dharma, glowing with pride. “Now,
tell me about my father and the work he is doing.”
“Your father has been engaged by our great
King Narasimha Deva. He is the chief among the
artisans. The King has ordered that none of the
builders should leave the temple area and visit their
homes until the temple is built. Your father, there-
fore, has not been able to see you. He is building
a great temple dedicated to the Sun god at Chandra-
bhaga on the seacoast. Chandrabhaga is a holy
place to which many go on pilgrimage. They say
that the temple is nearing completion and I hope your
father will soon return home.”
1. Another name for Puri, the holy city of Jagannath.
2. Ancient name for Bhubaneswar, the present capital of Orissa.
3. An old fort at Cuttack now, in ruins,
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
Dharma became impatient. “Mother,” he said,
“I want to go to Chandrabhaga to see my father and
the temple he is building. It will also be a pilgrimage
for me to the holy place. I shall not stay there long.
I shall bring news of father to you. Mother, won’t
you let me go?”
She, at first, would not consent to this. But
when she found that he had set his heart on going, she
could not refuse him. Before Dharma set out on
his journey, his mother blessed him and said, “May
the gods protect you from all danger and enable you
to meet your father.” She added, “Take these berries
from our garden. Your father likes them. This
will also be a token by which your father will know
you. These berries are grown only in our garden.”
With his mother’s blessings, Dharma set out on
the journey towards Chandrabhaga. Though he was
young and the way was unknown to him, he travelled
on bravely. As he neared the seacoast, his heart
thrilled with joy at the sight of the sand-dunes and the
tall casurina trees. When the wind blew, the leaves
seemed to whisper to him words of welcome. He
heard the roar of the breakers as they washed the
sandy shore. The fishermen were busy unloading
the day’s catch. The sea-gulls hovered over the boats
and the air was filled with the shrill cries of the birds
and shouts of the fishermen. As he walked further,
he got a glimpse of the magnificent temple from
a distance. The blue sea with its mighty waves
and the beautiful temple by its side filled him with
When he came nearer, he found the place bustling
with activity. Workmen with tools in their hands
were chiselling huge stones, carving out figures on
them, others were lifting stones and fixing them;
WHY DHARMAPADA SACRIFICED HIS LIFE 21
all were busy with their work. Dharmapada did
not know anyone there. He was at a loss how to
find his father in that crowd. He went about asking
for Bisu Maharana. It did not, however, take him long
to find his father. He made himself known to his
father, gave him the berries and gave him news of
Bisu was delighted to meet his son, whom he had
longed to see in those many years. He took Dharma
by his hand and showed him around the temple,
describing to him the many deta'is of the work.
Dharma saw the magnificent temple ouilt in the shape
of a chariot. The mighty wheels of the chariot v-ore
artistically carved with designs. The stone houses
drawing the chariot looked so real. Every stone was
adorned with beautiful carvings. The sculptured
figures of men and women, of elephants and horses,
of musicians and dancing girls, looked so life-like
to Dharmapada that he gaped at them with wonder.
His father explained to him, “This temple has
been built to the Sun god. The King wants to make
it a wonder of the world, so that many would come
from far and near to offer worship to the Sun god and
admire its beauty.” Bisu continued, “The building
work has already taken twelve years and the temple
is not yet complete. The King is anxious to have
it finished soon. His dream has come true except
for the crown stone which remains to be fixed on
the temple. We have been working hard to fix it,
but all our efforts have failed. Every time it is placed
on the top, it has fallen down. There must be some
mistake somewhere. Yesterday, the King in his impa-
tience and anger commanded that the temple should
be completed within three days, or else, all the artisans
would be put to death. Today after sunset, the artisans
are meeting together to discuss what should be done.
I don’t see much hope and the time is very short.
We are at our wit’s end.”
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
Dharmapada felt sad to see his father and his
kinsmen in distress. He begged his father for per-
mission to be present at the meeting.
In the meeting various opinions were put forth.
They were discussed, but none seemed workable.
At last, Dharmapada stood up and with folded hands
addressed the gathering. “Sirs, I have something
to say if you will deign to hear me. 1 think 1 can be
of service. Please do not spurn at my age. I hope
to set aright the crown stone on the temple top. I
only beg you to give me a chance.”
They were all amazed to hear the lad speak thus.
Some said, “What! Where we with all our skill and
experience have failed, how can a mere lad succeed?
He is boasting.”
Some others said, “Let us not stand on our
pride, but give the boy a chance. As it is, we have
failed. We have nothing to lose by giving him a
To this some others replied, “Why? Wc have
everything to lose. When it is known that twelve
hundred artisans failed to fix the crown stone, and
a lad from nowhere came along and did the job, what
will people say of us? Where will our dignity be?
When this reaches the King’s ears, do you think he
will spare our lives ?”
At last an old artisan said, “In either case, we
stand in danger of our lives. Even if a boy from
among us succeeds, our caste will still be held in
esteem. But, if the temple remains incomplete,
remember, this race of builders will for ever remain
in disgrace. Let us put aside our pride and leave
the work in his hands.” The old artisan’s words
appealed to all and they decided to let Dharmapada try.
WHY DHARMAPADA SACRIFICED I1IS LIFE
Early the next day, Dharma went round the
temple looking closely into the details of its struc-
ture. He spent hours studying the different parts
of the temple After a while, he climbed up to the
temple top and worked on the capital far into the
night. The twelve hundred artisans had no sleep
that night. They were anxiously waiting for the
result. At the first peep of day, to the amazement
of all, the crown top became visible from its height.
Dharmapada came down with his face beaming with
joy. His father ran towards him and embraced him.
The artisans soon surrounded hir.* and showered
blessings on him. Although they v,ere happy to see
the temple completed, their joy was not unmixed
with sorrow. Sensing this, Dharmapada enq ured
why they still looked sad.
“May you live long, and may your deed be
ever remembered. But your achievement will not
remain a secret. The King will surely hear of it. You
will be rewarded, but our fate is sealed,” they
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
Dharmapada was sad to hear this. '“What
does it profit me”, he said, “when I am rewarded and
my kinsmen suffer death? This wonderful temple
is your creation. I only fixed the lop stone at the
very end. I am not worthy of any reward.” So
saying Dharmapada left their presence.
He thought, “Of what use is my life when my
kinsmen suffer on my account? So let a single life
be sacrificed for the good of many.” Before the
first rays of the sun fell on the temple capital, Dharma-
pada climbed up to the temple top and from there
jumped to his death.
Dharmapada is no more. The famous temple
is still there, in ruins. The children of Orissa love
to hear his story and cherish his memory. Dharma-
pada has become immortal by sacrificing his life.
THE KING WHO WAS CALLED A SWEEPER
O N the coast of Orissa where the waters of the
Bay of Bengal wash its shores, there stands a
great temple, which is known as the Temple of
Jagannath. Pilgrims from far and near come to wor-
ship at this temple at Puri. But during the Ratha
Jatra festival, thousands of pilgrims crowd into the
city to see the Jatra. This festival is held every year
in the month of Asadh. The imagi of Jagannath
and the images of Balabhadra and Subhadra, his
brother and sister, are taken out in procession. Th 1 ee
huge wooden chariots are built and colourfully de-
corated for this festival. The pandas 1 bring the
idols from the temple and put them in the rathas or
chariots. The pilgrims pull these cars all the way
along the wide Bada Danda 2 , a couple of mi|es away
to the garden house. There the idols remain for a
week, after which they are pulled back in the chariots
to the main temple.
Some hundreds of years ago, there ruled in
Orissa, a king by name Purushottam Deva. He was
a devout king and an ardent devotee of Jagannath.
He was also noted for his humility. He considered
his kingdom as belonging to Jagannath and himself
merely a servant ruling in his stead.
At the Ratha Jatra festival, it was the custom
for the Kin g to take a broomstick with a golden handle
and sweep the floors of the cars of the deities. This
was so, because King Purushottam regarded himself
to be a sevaka or a servant of the gods. Not until
he performed this duty that the cars were drawn by
2. The Grand Road at Puri.
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
To the south of the land of Utkal, there lay in
those days, the kingdom of Kanchi. King Purushottam,
in his exploits in the southern regions, had seen Padma-
vati, the beautiful daughter of the king of Kanchi.
He had fallen in love with her and wanted to make
her his queen. He sent a proposal to the King of
Kanchi for the hand of his daughter. Padmavati’s
father not only agreed to the proposal but at the
invitation of Purushottam, came to Orissa to witness
the Ratha Jatra.
During the Jatra, the two kings sat on the terrace
of the royal palace, close to the temple, and watched
the ceremonies. The road from the temple to the
garden house was thickly crowded with thousands
of pilgrims. With the blowing of conch-shells and
the shouts of rejoicing by the vast crowd, the three
images were brought out from the temple and put
on the chariots reserved for each of them. While
all this was being done, the two kings were busily
engaged in conversation. Purushottam was explain-
ing the ceremonies to the Ruler of Kanchi.
“Tell me, who built this temple and who started
the worship of Jagannath here?” the King of Kanchi
“This great temple that we see before us, was
built by King Indradyumna,” answered Purushottam
Deva. He continued, “Indradyumna completed the
building of the temple, but there was no god to be
enshrined in it. Then, he saw in a dream, Nilamadhava,
the God of the ‘Savaras’ 1 . King Indradyumna wanted
to enshrine the god in the new temple. He sent Bidya-
pati, his minister, to the Savara village to get the image
of Nilamadhava. Bidyapati went and dwelt in the
house of Biswabasu, the Savara chief, and married
1. An aboriginal tribe of Orissa.
THE KING WHO WAS CALLED A SWEEPER 27
his daughter, Lalita. The Savaras worshipped
Nilamadhava in secret in a shrine hidden deep in the
forest. No stranger was allowed there. So, Bidyapati
did not know how he could ever reach the shrine of
Nilamadhava. He took the help of Lalita, who
induced her father to take him to the shrine. But,
Bidyapati was first blindfolded and then led to the
secret shrine. The minister, however, was equal to
the occasion and had secretly carried with him a
handful of mustard seeds. These, he dropped little
by little as he went along on the way. At the shrine,
in great excitement, he saw the image of Nilamadhava
in the form of a deep blue stone. Again he was
blindfolded and brought back. Bidyapati returned
and reported everything to King Indradyumna.
“Patiently, Indradyumna and his minister wait-
ed till the season came for the mustard seeds to blossom.
Then, Bidyapati took the King with him to the Savara
village. The golden llowers clearly pointed the way
and with no difficulty they came to the hidden shrine.”
The King of Kanclii, who was listening intently,
became curious and enquired, “Now, tell me. Is
Nilamadhava the same God as Jagannath?”
“Yes,” replied Purushottam, “he is the very
same God, but now worshipped in a different form.
This is how it happened.”
He continued, “At the shrine, that night,
Nilamadhava once again appeared in a dream before
King Indradyumna. He said, ‘Oh King! Hear my
words and fail not to carry out my will. I am
tired of this place. I do not desire to stay here any
longer. Their fruit offerings, made day after day,
do not satisfy me. I long for sweetmeats and food
that is cooked. Again, I do not desire to be worshipp-
ed here as Nilamadhava. I should hereafter be known
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
as Jagannath. You will find a log of wood 'floating
in the sea near Nilachala. My image should be cut
out of this log and enshrined in the new temple you
have just built.’ The King woke up from his dream
and strangely enough found that the blue stone had
“Indradyumna and his minister hastened to ful-
fil the will of the God. Sure enough they found, as
in the dream, the log of wood floating near the coast
of Nilachala. The King had the log taken out of
water. He searched for a skilled carpenter who
could fashion out an image of Jagannath. Many
carpenters came but the moment they tried to cut
the log, their chisels broke into pieces. At last an
old carpenter, named Ananta Maharana, came and
assured the King that he would get the image ready
in twenty-one days. He made a condition that he
should be locked up with the log in a room for twenty-
one days. During this period he should not be dis-
turbed and the doors should remain locked. This
was done. Daily the curious King and others went
near the locked room and heard the sound of wood-
work going on inside. But a few days before the
allotted time no sound was heard from within. The
King grew anxious because he feared that the old
carpenter who had no food and water must have
died. In great anxiety the King got the doors opened
and to his surprise found no carpenter inside. There
were only three unfinished images.”
“Therefore,” Purushottam continued, “the
images were enshrined in their unfinished form and
are worshipped as such till now. This is how Jagan-
nath, fialabhadra and Subhadra came to be worshipped
here in the temple.”
King Purushottam had just finished the long
narrative when it was time for him to go down ana
THE KING WHO WAS CALLED A SWEEPER 29
sweep the floors of the chariots of the deities. As
he swept the cars one after the other, people loudly
cheered him. But the sight of a king doing the work
of a sweeper did not please the Ruler of Kanchi. He
was filled with contempt for King Purushottam.
Soon after the Rat ha Jatra, the King of Kanchi
returned to his country. He did not lose any time
in sending word to the Ruler of Utkal that he would
not give his daughter in marriage to a chandala l .
Purushottam was enraged. He took it as an
insult not only to himself but also to his God Jagannath,
and he vowed revenge.
War was declared by Purushottam against Kanchi.
In the war Purushottam was defeated. Next year
he again declared war against Kanchi and this time
he invoked the help of the gods. He marched with
his hosts and before he had gone far, a milkmaid
by name Manika 2 met him in a village.
“Two of your men on horseback went ahead.
One of them rode on a black horse and the other on
a white horse. The men were thirsty and bought
buttermilk from me. They had no money to pay
with and they gave me this ring to be shown to you.
They asked me to take money from you,” she said.
The moment the King saw the ring, he knew
that it belonged to Jagannath. He was now sure that
the riders were none other than Jagannath
and Balabhadra who had gone ahead to fight for him.
He took it as a sure sign of victory. Purushottam
boldly marched forward with his army. This time,
he defeated the King of Kanchi and brought Padmavati
2. There is, today, a village called Manikapatna, named after the milkmaid,
Manika, where this incident took place.
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
a captive. In his anger, the King refused to marry
her but resolved to teach her proud father a lesson.
“Her father had called me a chandala. Take
her and marry her to a chandala. See that she
becomes the wife of a low caste sweeper,” he angrily
ordered his minister.
Though the minister was grieved to hear this,
lie humbly replied, “The King’s order will be carried
But the kind minister did not marry Padmavati
to a sweeper. Instead he took her to his own home
where he and his wife took care of the princess as
their own daughter. They were, of course, careful
to keep it a secret from the King.
Months passed by. At the next Ratha Jatra
festival, the King went up the chariot of Jagannath
to sweep its floor as usual. Just then, his minister
came up with Padmavati, and addressing the King said,
THE KING WHO WAS CALLED A SWEEPER
“Oh my King, you had asked me to marry princess
Padmavati to a chandala. Where can I find a more
suitable chandala than your worthy self to marry
her? Sir, here is this beautiful princess. Make her
your queen. It has taken me some time to carry
out your order. Now I am fulfilling your desire.
May the gods bless you and make you both happy.”
The King had all along truly loved Padmavati
and was rejoiced at the clever plan of his minister.
He forgot all his anger against the Ruler of Kanchi
and married his daughter with great romp and show.
Even to this day, the descendants of Purushottam
and Padmavati continue to perform the duties r.-i a
sweeper of the deities at every Ratha Jatra festival.
The Raja of Puri sweeps the floor of the temple in
the presence of thousands of onlookers.
SUDARSAN GAINS WISDOM AFTER MANY
S UDARSAN was a high caste Brahman of Banapur.
Whenever there was any religious ceremony in the
village Sudarsan was called for. There was hardly
a marriage or sacred thread ceremony where he was
not seen. He earned his living by acting as a priest
in these ceremonies. But the village was small and
such ceremonies were few and far between. So
Sudarsan was often in want.
One day, he was invited by a rich man from a
neighbouring village to act as priest in his daughter’s
wedding. After the marriage was over, Sudarsan
received gifts of money, clothes and large quantity of
rice grains and some coconuts. He had never before
been paid so well.
Sudarsan joyfully returned home with the treas-
ure. He was fond of good food and he liked
pithas' best of all. He told his wife, “I have been
longing to eat pithas. Now you have everything
here for making them. Please make some, and we
will eat to our heart’s content.”
His wife soon became busy making preparations
for the pithas. After they were ready, Sudarsan’s
wife set before him a plateful of rice-cakes. Sudarsan
was about to eat, when there came a piteous cry
from outside, “Mother,” cried a beggar, “I am dying
of hunger. Have pity on me and save my life. For the
last two days, I have had no food.” His cry fell on
the ears of Sudarsan just as he was going to have the
first bite of the rice-cake. Though very hungry, his
SUDARSAN GAINS WISDOM AFTER MANY EXPERIENCES 33
heart melted. Too well he knew the pangs of hunger.
Straightway, he got up with all the cakes and put them
in the beggar’s bowl. The beggar was more like a
skeleton than a living being and hastily swallowed
the delicious food. He wiped his face and blessed
the Brahman. “Long have I been wandering from
door to door but no one had pity on me. I went
to many big houses, yet no one gave me one morsel.
But you saved my life. May your riches grow
day by day. May want never come to your door.”
Then he looked around and seeing none, added,
“Follow me, sir, I can do somethin'; for you.”
The beggar led the way and the Brahman follow-
ed. They walked on and came to a forest. " hey
kept on walking deep into the thick bushes. The
tall trees all around looked like so many ghosts mock-
ing at the Brahman with their empty stomachs. A little
while later, he could walk no more and wearily, al-
most slumped to the ground.
But what was this ! The beggar had vanished ! It
all looked so unreal to Sudarsan. All of a sudden
the beggar appeared again before him with a pan
in his hand. “Take this pan, sir,” he announced, “and
ask it whatever food you want and whenever you
want it.” So saying he disappeared.
It all seemed so strange, so wonderful. Sudarsan
then looking at the pan’ said, “Give me some pit has,"
and lo, the delicacies were right before him. Joyfully,
the Brahman ate them and then went back home re-
joicing, with the pan in his hand. All the way, he
was thinking in his mind how much his dear wife
would rejoice at this wonderful gift.
On the way, he felt thirsty and put the treasured
pan at the foot of a tall tree. A group of boys were
playing nearby and looking at the boys he said, “Keep
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
an eye on this pan. But boys, I warn yqu, don’t
ask it to give you any food.” He went ahead a little
to a brook to drink water.
But boys are boys. They were most curious
at this strange warning. The moment the Brahman
was out of sight, looking at the pan, they all, in one
voice, asked, “Oh pan, give us sweets”. To their
great joy there were before them the best sweets
they had ever tasted. Quickly, they ate up all the
sweets. But how could they leave behind a treasure
which would always provide such wonders. They
put another pan in its place and carried the magic
pan to their home.
After drinking water, Sudarsan came back to
the tree and walked home with the pan. On reaching
home, he told his wife all about their good fortune.
“You will be like a Rani, and I, a Raja, eating sweet-
meats and the best cakes all the day long! Do you
know this ‘pan’ will give us whatever we like to eat
and in plenty too? Take it and ask it right now
what you like to eat.” But when they asked the pan
for gifts of food, nothing happened. All their dreams
had gone. Without any food, they spent a sleepless
The next morning, the Brahman went to the
forest and to his joy the same beggar appeared before
“I know you have lost the pan. Don’t be foolish
again. I now give you a box and whenever you ask
for clothes you will find it stuffed with the richest
and the costliest clothes. You may sell these and buy
all that you need,” said the beggar.
Again the foolish Brahman, who had not yet
learnt Ms lesson, put the box near the tree, where
SUDARSAN GAINS WISDOM AFTER MANY EXPERIENCES 35
the same boys were playing. “I am coming in a
moment. Keep an eye here,” he said, “but do not
ask the box to give any clothes.”
The boys who now knew more about the Brah-
man, waited till he was out of sight. Then approaching
the box, they said, “Oh box, give us clothes to wear.”
Immediately they found the box full of rich and
costly clothes. They put on these nice looking, rich
clothes and looked like princes. The boys, of course,
put another box there and carried this ficcious treasure
The Brahman came back a little while la er,
and took the box home to his wife. “Here you are,”
he addressed her, “rich clothes and in plenty, only
ask the box and it will give you. We need no longer
remain poor. Whenever we need money we can
sell the clothes.”
His wife anxiously asked the box to give her
silk saris. But, of course, the box did nothing.
In disgust, the woman gave a kick to the box
and calling her husband a. liar, she asked, “Is this the
way you should deceive your wife? Yesterday you
gave me the sweetmeats and today you are giving me
silk saris ! You are a liar ! Mind, if you treat your
wife in this way you need not expect her to stay here
any longer. I must go back to my parents.”
The next day, with a heavy heart, Sudarsan
went to the forest. Who would look after him if his
wife went away? An empty stomach and a lonely
heart! Could he bear all this? With such sad
thoughts he came to the jungle and on arrival there,
again, he met his benefactor.
“You fool,” he scolded, “I gave you food and
clothes but*you v could retain neither. It is hard to
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
pardon your folly. Yet, one more chance t give you.
Take this club and deal with the wicked boys.”
Soon, the Brahman went to the spot where he
had met the boys before and putting the club down,
warned the boys, “Beware, don’t ask anything
of this club.” They inwardly smiled and assured the
Brahman that they would have nothing to do with
Many good things had come out of the pan and
the box. How could the boys forget such sweets and
such clothes 1 ‘Surely something else will come from
this club,’ they thought.
The moment the Brahman was out of sight, the
boys cried, “Oh club, give us something; oh, club,
give us something.” To their horror the club rose
up and fell on each one of them with heavy strokes
on their heads. Crying in pain, the boys ran to their
village, but the merciless club followed them hitting
hard all the time. The screaming boys ran to their
parents for help and protection but none could help
them. The parents with tears in their eyes, fell at
Sudarsan’s feet and begged him for help. “Do not
let our boys be killed,” they cried. “Have mercy on
them and save them.”
“Not until my pan and box are returned will
I help,” replied the angry Brahman.
“Take your pan, take your box,” they said,
producing those quickly. Sudarsan was satisfied and
shouted at the club, “Stop.” The beating forth-
with stopped and the Brahman happily returned home
with his magic pan, box and club.
Sudarsan and his wife, ever afterwards, had
plenty of rich food and nice clothes. They lived in
comfort and they were also safe because they
had the magic club with them.
WHY A BRITISH CAPTAIN BOWED BEFORE
A REBEL CHIEF
O VER two hundred years ago the Marathas were rulers
in Orissa. They appointed a local chief as Raja,
but themselves lived far out in the west of the country.
This Raja collected revenues on behalf of his masters,
the Marathas. There were numerous Paikas 1 under
the Raja who fought the Raja’s battle, and in return
got gifts of land for which they had to t iay no revenue.
But when the Britishers came and conque ed
Orissa the Paikas lost their lands to the British.
There was much discontent on this account. Soon
this discontent spread like wild fire and the Paikas
banded together to fight the British.
At that time, there lived in the village of Narana-
garh, one Dalabehera, whose name is cherished even
today by many in Orissa. He was the headman of
the village, and had the heart of a prince. People
called him the friend of the poor, and no person in
need ever returned from him empty-handed. Even
men from distant parts adored him and said that he
was more like a god than man.
When the Paikas revolted, Dalabehera took
the lead and fought against the British. In the beginn-
ing victory was on the side of the Paikas. They
captured a number of places from the British, but
soon fresh armies were brought against them and the
revolt was firmly put down. Brutal punishment of
the Paikas followed their defeat. Many were caught
and hanged and many imprisoned. A number of
1. Soldiers of Orissa in olden times.
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
Paikas fled to the jungle for safety and refuge. Yet
the anger of the British captain was not satisfied.
He wanted the head of Dalabehera. But Dalabehera
was hiding in the jungle and he could not be traced.
So a reward of one thousand rupees was offered to
anyone who would capture Dalabehera. In spite of
keen searches all over, Dalabehera could not be cap-
tured. He was living in a thick jungle and depended
on wild fruits and roots and water from the forest
brooks. His clothes were tattered and with over-
growing hair and beard he looked utterly miserable.
One day while roaming, Dalabehera met a man
who looked deeply distressed. The man came up to
Dalabehera and pitiously asked the way to
“What makes you go to Naranagarh?” asked
Dalabehera in surprise. “Whom do you want there?”
“I am going to Dalabehera of Naranagarh,”
replied the man.
“I know Dalabehera but tell me why do you
want to meet him?” asked Dalabehera.
“Sir, grave misfortune has fallen upon me.
My home is in Ganjam. I was coming in a boat with
all my merchandise but my boat sank in the Chilka 1 .
I escaped only with the clothes I am wearing. I have
a large family and I have lost everything. There is
no one to help me. I have heard the name of Dala-
behera. Men say that he is a friend of the helpless.
I am sure if I meet him he will not refuse help,” said
Dalabehera was struck with the man’s story and
for a while remained speechless. His noble heart
1. A lake in Orissa.
WHY A BRITISH CAPTAIN BOWED BEFORE A REBEL CHIEF 39
melted. The picture of the man’s helplessness pained
him and he made up his mind.
“Come along with me, my friend. I know your
Dalabeh era very well. He now lives in Khurda and I
will take you to him. I also believe that he will help
you,” said Dalabehera.
But Dalabehera straightway took the man to
Khurda to the British Captain who was hunting for his
life. Unafraid he stood before the CapUin. The Captain
however could not imagine that Dalabehera was
standing before him.
Curiously he asked, “Who are you and what has
brought you here?”
“Sir,” boldly asked Dalabehera, “Is it a
fact that you have offered a reward of one thousand
rupees for Dalabehera’s head?”
“Yes, it is true. Do you know the where-
abouts of this man ?” enquired the Captain.
Dalabehera said, “Please listen, sir, I am Dala-
behera, whom your men have not been able to track
down. I myself have come to you. Arrest me,
sir, and make good your promise. Please pay the
reward of one thousand rupees to this most
Then in moving words he narrated the pitiful
story of the man. “He has nothing now with him
except the clothes on his body. I cannot bear the
thought of such great misery and therefore have come
to you. Take me prisoner and pay this man the
FOLK TALFS OF ORISSA
In silent astonishment, the British Captain listened
to the story of the man’s great misfortune and Dala-
behera’s still greater sacrifice.
Uplifted in spirit the British Captain confessed,
“Dalabehera, I have long been utterly mistaken. 1
never knew you were so great in spirit! How could
I be revengeful before such greatness? Take one
thousand rupees for your friend and also your
freedom with it.”
The miserable man who was a witness to this
amazing story fell at the feet of Dalabehera saying,
“Sir, I had thought that you were only a rich man
who helped the poor like many other rich men but
now I see that you are more like a god than man.”
A RANI’S REVENGE
I N oiden times, there were a number of inde-
pendent states in Orissa. Banki and Khurda
were two such States which had a common boundary.
There were frequent border disputes between the two
states. Sometimes, these disputes even led to war.
Dhanurjaya, the Raja of Banki was a renowned
warrior who had fought many hard battles. He was
a skilful archer and swordsman. His Rani, Shuka
Dei, was no less a warrior than her husband. Her
skill in horse-riding was well known everywhere.
Banki was a smaller State than Khurda. Her
resources in men and materials were poor. But
Dhanurjaya’s courage was such that he would yield
to none and much less to the Raja of Khurda. Once
the Raja of Khurda forcibly occupied some villages
on the border. Bravely, Dhanurjaya marched for-
ward with his army to light the invader. That day
a severe battle was fought and many were killed.
In the end, the small army of Banki could not resist
the pressure of a heavy attack. Dhanurjaya fought
bravely, but fell into the hands of the enemy and was
killed. When they found their ruler slain, the sol-
diers of Banki gave up the battle as lost and fled
from the battle-field.
Soon report of the death of her husband reached
Rani Shuka Dei. Her grief knew no bounds,
yet her eyes held no tears but flashed fire. Her
counsellors came up to her and declared in one voice,
“Our Raja is dead. Now there is no hope for us.
Let us surrender to the enemy.”
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
“Are we Kshatriyas 1 or cowards?” she cried
out in anger.
“No, Madam,” replied her minister, “we are
not cowards. But our Stale is small and our army
smaller. We can never expect to win against Khurda.
Our Raja is no more and you, O Rani, are only a
woman and Prince Dayanidhi ismerelyalad.lt is
wise to give up now a bit of our territory rather than
lose the entire State. This may satisfy the Raja of
“What? Yield to the enemy! True, I am a
woman but do not forget that 1 am a Kshatriya and
Kshatriya blood runs in my veins,” cried the Rani
Turning to her Senapati 2 she continued, “I
will fight and fight, and if need be, die fighting like a
Kshatriya, but never will I yield even a small strip
of land to the enemy.”
Feelingly she asked, “Did you not all run away
from the battle-field? Tell me, did my husband
run away ? Bravely, he fought and died in the battle-
field. If you are afraid, you may go and hide yourself
in your homes. I am going to the battle-field to fight
again. If none of you comes with me, let it be known
that I, a woman, will alone march forward and fight
Then she added, “Only such as are not afraid
of death, need come with me. Make known this,
my decision, to my people.”
These brave words of a woman put courage in
their hearts and they declared, “If you are going to
1. Warrior class.
the battle-field, can we stay behind? We can’t
let you go alone.” They added, “We have asked the
Raja of Badamba for help, and maybe, help from
that quarter is coming.”
The Rani’s undaunted courage touched every-
body, and soon a great army, with the Rani at the
head, marched forward against Khurda.
In the meanwhile, the Raja of Khurda was
celebrating his victory. When the news of this fresh
attack reached his ears he could not believe it.
“Impossible,” he said, “The Rani of Bank' to
attack us? Dare she, a widow, take up such a fcjlish
venture, and that too so soon after the death of her
husband ? Impossible !” However, he instructed his
Senapati to make preparations for war.
Great was the surprise of the Raja to see Shuka
Dei leading an army against him. Soon a fierce
battle raged near the boundary. The Rani’s unusual
courage gave spirit to her soldiers and they fought
bravely. Many deeds of courage were seen on the
battle-field and in the end the Senapati of Khurda
was caught and killed by the Banki army. Thereafter,
panic prevailed in the Khurda camp and soon the
Raja of Khurda was captured by the Rani’s soldiers.
Bound with chains and guarded by the soldiers
of Banki, the Raja was brought before Rani Shuka
Dei. He was greatly ashamed when he was brought
as a prisoner before a woman, and that too a woman
whose husband he had so lately killed.
Was not death in the battle-field thousand times
better than this disgrace? Surely, revenge is in the
Rani’s heart and she will not spare my life,’ thought the
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
The Rani looked at her soldiers and ordered,
“Take off the chains and set free the Raja.” Then
looking at the Raja, she gently said, “You may now
return to your own State. No one here will do you
The Raja was astonished at this most unexpected
turn of events. ‘What!’ he thought, ‘She, whom 1
had taken to be my enemy seeking revenge, now orders
my freedom!’ With his head bowed he humbly
said, “I never imagined that you could show me such
The Rani rejoined, “Sir, you are my prisoner
and if I like I can have your head cut off. But what
good would such an act produce? I am a widow.
I have a woman’s heart. My husband is dead and
day and night I am mourning. My grief is too heavy
to bear. How could I inflict such a sorrow and such
suffering on another woman? No, no, I cannot do
this to the Rani of Khurda ! I fought with you only
to bring back the lost prestige of Banki and not
Deeply moved the Raja stood stunned. After
a while, he humbly said, “Madam, you got victory
over me in the battle-field today, and now you have
won a second victory over me by showing such magna-
nimity. What could my grateful heart say or give to
you? I remain for ever indebted to you and as a token
of my gratitude, I surrender to you the entire Kusa-
pala pargana 1 of Khurda. I vow, that never more
shall the sword of Khurda be raised against Banki.”
Later, a pillar was raised at Kusapala, to mark
the heroism and magnanimity of Rani Shuka Dei.
The pillar still exists.
1. A group of villages.
THE COWHERD AND THE WITCH
I N a certain village there lived a cowherd. He
took out the cows of the villagers for grazing. They
paid him money for looking after their cattle. On
festival days, however, they also gave the boy sweets
prepared at their homes.
It was the day of Bakula Amavasya 1 , a day of
festival and rejoicing for the village folk. At every
home they had prepared pithas * ana other kinds of
sweets. In the morning the boy went round the
village collecting the cows. As it was a festival clay,
he got rice-cakes from every home. That day he had
plenty to eat. He gave some to his mother and took
some with him to eat during the day.
About noon when the cattle were resting, the
boy sat down under a banyan tree and ate a few rice-
cakes. But how much could he eat? He had al-
ready eaten too much but there was still one left over.
A funny idea came to his mind. A little away from
the banyan tree, he dug the earth and planted the
rice-cake as he would plant a seed. Jokingly, he said
to the rice-cake, “If you do not sprout by tomorrow
morning, I shall strike you with my axe."
Next day he went to the same field with the cows.
He had forgotten about the rice-cake. As he sat
watching his cattle graze, suddenly he remembered
the rice-cake he had planted. He went to the spot
to look. To his surprise, the cake had sprouted!
1. Anew moon day — a festival day in Orissa, on which mango blossoms arc
put in different kinds of sweets and offered to the gods invoking their
blessings for a good crop of mangoes. After they are offered to the gods,
they are usually distributed to the children.
2. Cakes made of rice.
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
There was a green sprout sticking through the earth.
The boy was greatly amused. He said to the sprout,
“By tomorrow if I do not find leaves on you, I shall
cut you down with my axe.”
On the following day, he went straight to the
place where he had planted the rice-cake. He was
delighted to find the plant covered with leaves. He
said, “Now, if there are no rice-cakes on your branches
tomorrow, 1 shall cut you down with my axe.”
He went early the next morning to see if his
words had really come true. Yes, the tree had borne
fruit. The branches were heavy with white rice-cakes.
The boy shouted for joy as he climbed the tree. He
had his fill of rice-cakes freshly plucked from the tree.
He even took some home to his mother.
Now, this he did every day and the tree continued
to give him rice cakes.
THE COWHERD AND THE WITCH
One day, the boy was up on the tree singing
merrily and eating rice-cakes. A witch saw him.
She approached him in the form of an old grey-haired
woman and said, “Hello son, how can you eat all
the rice-cakes by yourself? Won’t you give some to
this old woman?”
“Why, the branches arc heavy with cakes?
You can help yourself.”
“Can’t you see, son, I am old and weak? My
eyes have gone dim. Please pluck some for me.”
The boy jumped on the branches and some cakes
fell on the ground. “Now pick for yourself as much
as you wish.”
“Oh, no, no, J won’t take these. They are
fallen on the ground. They have become dirty.
Unless you give with your own hand, I will not have
any. Of course, if you don’t wish to give any, l will
go away. I’ve had no food since yesterday.”
So saying she turned her back and started to go. The
boy called her back. From the branches he stooped
a little to hand her a couple of cakes. All of a sudden,
the witch pulled him down and ihe boy fell on the
ground. Quickly she caught hold of him and put
him in her bag. She tied the bag and placing it in
her basket, carried him away.
It was a hot sunny day. The basket was heavy
and she was tired. She felt thirsty and stopped on
the way to drink water. Some men were ploughing
in a paddy field nearby. The old witch put down
her load on the wayside. “Please keep an eye on this
till I return from the brook,” she requested the men.
When she was gone, the boy called out gently,
“Have mercy on me and save me.” The ploughmen
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
were surprised to hear a human voice coming out of
the basket. They untied the bag and set 'the boy
free. Quickly, the lad told them how he was being
taken away by the wicked witch. “Now, hurry.
Before the witch comes back, run and hide behind
the bushes,” advised the men. Then they placed some
stones in the bag, tied it again and placed it in the
basket. When the witch returned, the men were
ploughing the field as if nothing had happened.
Without suspecting anything, the witch placed
the basket on her head and carried it home. When
she reached home her daughter came out to meet
her. “Here, take this. There is meat in this basket.
Prepare a good meat curry today. Have the food
ready when I return from a bath in the river,” she
When the girl opened the bag, she found only
stones. “Do you want me to make curry out of
these?” she asked, pointing at the stones, when her
mother returned from her bath. The witch came over
and looked in. “What! The rascal slipped out of
the bag! He cheated me! I’ll see that he doesn’t
escape next time,” swore the witch.
After some days, the old witch again went to
the rice-cake tree, this time in the form of a beggar
woman. She found the boy up on the tree. “What
lovely cakes! Won’t you give me some? I am so
hungry,” she begged.
“So you have come again! Do you think I
have forgotten you?” the boy asked. “It was my
good luck that saved me from your hands. No,
you can’t deceive me this time.”
The witch pretended to be surprised. “I don’t
know what you are talking about. I never came here
THE COWHERD AND THE WITCH
before. You are surely mistaking me for someone
The boy looked at her carefully. He thought,
‘Probably, I am mistaken. Perhaps, this is another
woman. But let me be careful still.’ He held the
branch tightly with one hand, and with the other
offered some cakes to the woman. “Take these and
don’t bother me any more,” he said.
The witch caught hold his hand quickly and pulled
him down. She pulled so hard that tVe branch broke
and the boy fell to the ground. At mce the woman
tied him securely and carried him away in her bas-
This time the witch was careful not to stop on
the way but went straight to her home. She said
to her daughter, “Keep everything ready for the
cooking while I go to collect some firewood.”
When the witch left, the girl untied the bag.
Out came a handsome lad. He had thick black hair
on his head. Now the witch’s daughter was almost
bald. Being a girl, she naturally coveted such lovely
hair. So she asked the boy, “What do you do to
get such nice hair?” At once the boy thought
of a plan. “But that’s a secret. Why should I tell
you when you are going to kill me?” bargained the
boy. The girl thought for a moment. Her
desire to have long black hair was so great that she
promised to set him free if he gave out the secret.
The boy said gravely, “Goat’s milk helps the hair
to grow. Every night, before I go to bed my mother
rubs this milk on my head. If you do the same, you
will soon find lovely black hair on your head.” When
the girl learned the secret, in gratitude, she set him
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
She cooked up a story to tell her mother when
she returned with the firewood. She said, “O’ Mother !
The boy has run away. I had shut him in the room.
I was grinding the spices for the curry, and when I
came back he was not there. Look, he has broken
the window and has jumped through that.” The
witch flew into a rage. She gave her daughter a
severe beating for her carelessness.
The old witch did not give up. She was now
more determined than ever to capture the boy. The
boy also knew that the witch would come again. But
this time he was well prepared. He had a crow-bar
well sharpened and kept ready and hidden on the
Sure enough, the witch came again. She stood
under the cake tree and begged for some rice-cakes.
‘I know you too well by now, old witch,’ thought
the cowherd. But he said aloud, “Open your mouth,
I’ll drop some cakes from here.” Not knowing what
was coming, the witch opened her mouth wide. In
the flash of a moment, the cowherd with all his strength
thrust the crow-bar into her mouth and killed her.
Thus he freed himself from the hands of the witch.
I N ancient times, there were a number of ports
on the eastern coast of Orissa. Large rivers like the
Mahanadi, the Subarnarekha, the Brahmini and the
Baitarani were studded with ports. In those days,
there lived a class of merchants who were called
‘Sadhavas’. They owned large ships which sailed
from these ports to distant islands like Ceylon, Java,
Sumatra and Bali.
Tanaybanta was one such Sadhava, who had
seven ships sailing to and fro on the high seas. He
had a large family. His seven sons lived happily
with their wives. His only daughter, Tapoyee, was
a lovely little girl. She was so gentle and good that
all loved her.
Tapoyee had many friends. Her days passed
joyfully playing with them. They played many games
together. Sometimes, they played the game of
Cowrie \ at other times they went to the garden to
swing. But the game Tapoyee loved best was digging
in the sand by the riverside, making sand-houses
and playing with sand. Tapoyee had a set of toy pots
and pans with which she played the game of imagi-
nary cooking. She would take a handful of sand,
pebbles and a little water in the pots and imagine
that she was cooking rice and curry. Some-
times her playmates would join her. Then they would
serve these on banana leaves spread on the ground
and sit down to enjoy an imaginary feast.
One day, while she was busy playing alone,
an old woman approached her. She stood by her
]. Small $ea-3liclls used in a game of dice.
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
side and watched her for a while. Then she 'laughed
at Tapoyee and said, “Well, well, you are a stupid
girl, indeed! It’s a shame for a rich man’s daughter
to play with earthen pots. Why? Can’t your father
afford to give you golden pots and pans? He is so
rich that he can make for you even a golden moon !”
After the wicked woman left, Tapoyee pondered
over her words. Her innocent mind was now upset.
She became morose. She could not play any longer.
She broke all her earthen pots and returned home
At home, she refused food and would not talk
to anyone. Her parents, brothers and their wives
were much distressed. They tried in vain to find
out from her the cause of her sorrow. At last Nilendi,
her youngest brother’s wife, went up to her and said,
“Tapoyee dear, won’t you listen to me? I’ll
do anything for you, give anything you ask. Only
tell me what is the matter with you. Why are you
so sad?” Now, Tapoyee loved Nilendi more than
any of her sisters-in-law. With tears in her eyes,
Tapoyee said, “Father is so rich, yet he has never
given me costly toys to play with! I play with only
pots and pans made of clay. Others mock at me.
Why should I not be sad?” Then she remembered
the old woman’s words, and added, “I want a golden
moon to play with!”
Nilendi consoled her and said, “Is this all you
want? Now get up and be a good girl. Come and
eat. Your father will surely give you a moon made
Though it cost him a lot of money, Tanaybanta
loved his daughter so much that he had a golden
moon made for her. But, alas, Tapoyee’s request
was ill-fated. When the golden moon was half
done, her father died. When the moon was complet-
ed, she lost her mother. Tapoyee had her wish, but
she could not enjoy playing with the golden moon.
She then realized that her request was not proper.
She should not have listened to the words of the
The funeral ceremonies of the parents were
duly performed. After the mourning period was
over, Tanaybanta’s sons took up the business of
their father. The ships had been lying idle for some
months. The brothers decided that they should go
out on a long voyage to distant idands with their
merchandise. With the advice of the Brahmans,
an auspicious day for the voyage was fixed. The
ships were fitted out and loaded with cargo.
The merchants’ wives all wanted one thing or
the other to be brought for them from the far off
lands. One asked for a pearl necklace to be brought
from Lanka 1 . Another wanted a pair of ear tops,
with eight different gems on them, from Sumatra.
Yet another requested for a silk sari from Bali. In
this way all the seven wives made their requests. When
it came to the turn of Tapoyee, she would not ask
for anything. “I do not want anything. All that
I want is that my brothers should return home safely,”
she said. But when they insisted that she should
name something to be brought for her, she replied,
“You can bring anything that you like.”
On the day fixed for the voyage, before leaving
home, the Sadhavas called their wives together and
told them, “Take good care of our sister. She has
lost her parents and is sad. Attend to all her needs
carefully. Keep her happy and see that no harm
befalls her.” As was the custom, the merchants and
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
all the womenfolk of the house went down, to the
riverside where the boats were moored, to perform
puja 1 in the ships to Goddess Mangala, the protecting
deity of the Sadhavas. Rice grains, dub 2 grass,
berry leaves, flowers and lamps were arranged on
silver plates. The lamps were lit, and oblations were
offered to the Goddess. The womenfolk sang songs
in praise of Mother Mangala and prayed for the safety
of the merchants. They applied sandalwood paste
on the foreheads of their husbands and bade them
There in the ships they parted with many words
of tenderness. It was not customary to weep on such
an auspicious occasion. Yet, Tapoyee and her
sisters-in-law could not help shedding tears as they
came out of the boats. They stood on the bank
of the river and blew conch-shells until the ships
were out of sight.
2. A kind of grass.
For a time all went well. Her sisters-in-law
took great care of Tapoyee bestowing all their love
and attention upon her. In this way many days
passed. But Tapoyee’s happiness was shortlived.
One day a beggar woman called at their house
and asked for some rice to eat. She was there begging
for a long time, but none paid attention to her. At
last, the eldest brother’s wife came out. The woman
said, “I have been begging for a little rice so long,
but no one cared to listen to me!” She replied, “Why?
We are all busy. There is such a tot of work to
attend to in this house. Besides, my husband’s sister
needs so much looking after that there is little time
for anything else. We have to do every thin w to
keep her happy.”
This was the same old woman who had earlier
talked to Tapoyee and had brought sorrow to the
family. Now, she said mischievously, “Who is this
fortunate girl to have seven sisters-in-law dancing
attendance on her? Why should you do all that for
her? After all, do you think she will speak a good
word for you to her brothers when they return home?
I tell you, she will, on the other hand, speak ill of
you. The ungrateful girl will tell stories against you
to her brothers. Take my word, your husbands
will more readily believe her than believe you. Let
me tell you how you can get rid of her. Now is the
time to do something. Send her daily to the jungle
with the goats. I am sure, there she will be eaten up
by a wolf or be bitten by a snake. You can then tell
her brothers that she died of pox.”
Her words pleased the eldest sister-in-law.
Gradually, she was able to poison the minds of the
others against Tapoyee. Soon the poor girl was
given all kinds of domestic chores. Nilendi, however,
did not like this, but she was powerless. Tapoyee
POLK TALES OF ORISSA
was given coarse clothes to wear and was treated like
a servant in her own home. She swept the floor,
washed clothes, pounded rice and did all the hard
manual work. For all she did, she did not have a kind
word from her sisters-in-law. However well she worked
she was found fault with and was often scolded. In
her misery, she cried many a time. She longed for
the old days and prayed for her brother’s quick
return. But the worst was yet to come.
One morning, Tapoyee’s eldest brother’s wife
called her and said, “You are a lazy girl. You are
idling yourself at home. Hereafter, you should take
out the goats daily to the jungle for grazing. Be
careful! See that the goats are not lost. If I find
any goat missing. I’ll punish you severely.” Then
she threw a basket at her saying, “Take this, here is
some food for you for the mid-day meal.”
With tears rolling down her cheeks, Tapoyee
went out driving the goats. She had never before
known the heat of the sun. She found it
unbearable. Her tender feet bled as she walked
bare-footed in the jungle. At noon she opened
the basket. When she saw what was inside, she
cried bitterly. The basket was full of ashes and dirt
with a handful of parched rice thrown on top. She
was very hungry. Tapoyee, who at one time did
not know what hunger was and always ate the best
food, now had to satisfy her hunger with the little
parched rice in the basket. In her distress, she wept.
But who would save her? Her parents were dead,
her brothers were far away.
The next day the same thing was repeated. The
second sister-in-law gave her very little food for
the mid-day. In this way six days passed until there
came the seventh day, when it was Nilendi’s turn to
give her food. Secretly, Nilendi packed a good meal
of fine rice and tasty curries for Tapoyee. That day
Tapoyee had a good meal.
In this way dragged on days and months. One
day, as Tapoyee was herding the goats back home,
she found one of the best goats missing. It was
getting dark. The sky was overcast with clouds.
Already it had started to rain. Tapoyee called out
for the goat and searched high and low, but nowhere
was the goat to be seen. She returned home with
a heavy heart. She feared that she would be badly
As soon as the eldest sister-in-law learnt of the
missing goat, she brought out a stick to beat Tap >yee.
The poor girl ran away into the jungle to save herself.
In the dark and alone in the forest, she was seized
with fear. Her grief knew no bounds. In her despera-
tion she cried aloud, “Oh! Mother Mangala! Have
mercy on me. Bring back my brothers and put an
end to my suffering.”
Little did she know that at that time the ship
had arrived at the riverside and her brothers had
returned. Her sorrowful wailing filled the forest
air. Her brothers were astonished to hear someone
weeping in the jungle nearby. Some of them left
the ships and went to offer help. They saw a girl
sitting under a tree and weeping, the picture of
sorrow, “Who are you? Why are you crying here
at such an hour?” asked the Sadhavas.
“I have none in this world to care for me. My
parents are dead. My brothers are far away and their
wives treat me cruelly,” she replied sobbing.
Then the brothers knew who she was. “Why,
you are Tapoyee! Our beloved sister!” they ex-
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
She lifted up her tearful face and said, “Ah,
my brothers! Yes, I am Tapoyee, your unfortunate
sister.” Then she told them all that had happened
in their absence.
They took her to the ship. There they all heard
how cruelly their wives had treated Tapoyee while
they were away. Tapoyee was happy beyond measure.
Her days of misery seemed to end.
Early in the morning, they sent a servant to
their wives with a message. They said, “Go home and
tell the ladies that we have arrived safely. Ask them
to come here with Tapoyee to peform puja in
the ships and welcome us back home, as is our
As soon as they heard the news, the merchants’ wives
became busy arranging the offerings on silver plates.
With these they hurried to the riverside to welcome
their husbands. As for Tapoyee, they were sure that
she was killed by some wild animal in the forest and to
deceive their husbands, they had cooked up a story
about Tapoyee’s death through illness.
But when they reached the ship, to their dismay,
they found Tapoyee on the deck of the ship, decked
beautifully in nice clothes and jewellery. The Sadhavas
were angry with their wives and punished them for
ill-treating Tapoyee, but Nilendi, who had shown
kindness to the girl, was rewarded by them.
This story relates to hundreds of years ago.
It is remembered and recited by girls in Orissa during
the festival of Tapoyee Ossa. This festival is observed
in worship of Goddess Mangala, on every Sunday
during the month of Bhadra. On each of these
Sundays, the girls in Orissa undertake a fast, perform
puja and pray to Goddess Mangala to grant them
their wishes as she had once granted Tapoyee’s wish.
I N a certain village, on the coast of Orissa,
there once dwelt a simpleton. His name was
Madhua. He was so stupid that he was not able to
do even a simple job. Luckily for him he had a good
wife. She did odd jobs here and there and supported
Once she fell seriously ill. Madhua then realized
that it was his duty to look after h^r and nurse her
back to health. He needed money to buy food and
medicines. So he went out in search of a job. siut
who would employ him ? Everyone knew that he
was good-for-nothing. He tried hard but did not
get a job. Poor Madhua was so dejected that he
did not wish to return home and see his sick wife
dying before his very eyes. He did not wish to live
any longer. He went to drown himself in the sea.
Sitting on the seashore, he cried bitterly, “Oh god.
how can I live? What good is life without brain, with-
out money ? Now, 1 am about to lose my wife also.
Let me end this miserable life.” So saying he threw
himself into the sea.
The sea god heard his cry and took pity on him.
He did not allow Madhua to die. He sent a big
wave which lifted him up and cast him on the sandy
beach. Madhua was senseless. The sea god caused
a cool breeze to blow and fan him back to life. Slowly
Madhua opened his eyes. He saw a tall, hand-
some, blue figure standing before him. The figure
was wearing a necklace of such lovely pearls and pre-
cious stones that they shone like stars on his blue
body. He was Varuna, the sea god. Varuna said,
“O Madhua, be brave, do not despair. In the deep
oceans, I have untold wealth. I will help you. A
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
small gift from me can change your life. Here, take
this conch-shell. Ask it what you want. It will give
you whatever you desire.”
It was a beautiful conch -shell. Madhua’s heart
was filled with thankfulness and he humbly bowed
before the god. When he looked up the blue figure
had vanished. Madhua was alone on the seashore
with the conch-shell in his hands. He hastened home
joyfully. As soon as he reached home, he wanted
to try the magic powers of the conch-shell. “Oh
conch-shell, give me now a hundred gold pieces,”
he asked. To his surprise, he found a hundred gold
pieces lying on the floor! With the gold, Madhua
got the best physician of the land and the best
medicines for his wife. His wife soon recovered from
They had now plenty of money. With the help
of the conch-shell they got a beautiful house in place
of their hut. They no longer wore rags. They dressed
themselves in fine clothes, ate good food and were
attended upon by many servants.
Though Madhua was a simpleton, he was a
kind-hearted man. Now that he was rich, he was
able to give alms to the poor. No beggar ever returned
empty-handed from his door.
The King of the land came to know of Madhua’s
sudden good fortune. He became jealous and sent
spies to find out how Madhua had become rich over-
night. The spies became friendly with Madhua,
and soon found out from the simple man how he
had become rich so suddenly. At the end, they stole
the conch-shell from him and gave it to the King.
Once more Madhua was in distress. His conch-
shell was gone. His wealth also slowly dwindled. He
could not give alms to the poor any more. He was
sad and wished to end his life.
Madhua went to the seashore again to drown
himself in the sea. The sea god once again appeared
before him and said, “Do not lose heart. I shall
give you a bigger conch-shell this lime. It will give
ten times more of everything that you ask. But
do not keep it for yourself. Make a gift of it to the
King and ask him to return your conch-shell.
When you get back your conch-shell you should leave
the country at once.”
Madhua did as he was told. He was not tempted
to keep the big conch-shell for himself. Faith r ully,
he presented it to the King and explained to him its
magical powers. The King was happy to get a conch-
shell which could give him ten times more of what he
asked for. He gladly parted with the small conch-
As soon as he was alone, the King took the big
conch-shell and asked him to give him gold, silver
and precious stones. But to his horror, out came two
blue hands from the conch-shell and slapped him
right and left. A voice from within said, “O greedy
King, you have so much wealth, yet you robbed poor
Madhua. Be content with what you have. If you
ask for more, you will only get more blows.”
The King was angry with M adhua for deceiving
him. He sent his soldiers to get hold of Madhua and
bring him. But Madhua had already left for a far
country and was out of reach of the King’s hands.
Madhua and his wife lived happily the rest of
their lives. The conch-shell gift of God was their
THE MAHAJAN’S SONS
O NCE there was a Mahajan 1 who had four sons.
In his lifetime he had amassed a good deal
of wealth. His sons and their wives lived with him
under the same roof. The old Mahajan feared that
after his death his sons might quarrel and divide the
property among themselves. If they could live to-
gether, he was sure, they would prosper.
The Mahajan was old and weak and he did not
think that he was going to live much longer. So one
day he called his sons together and said, “Dear sons,
my death is not far off. After I leave this world do
not quarrel, do not divide the property but live together
and you will prosper. If, however, a’ division becomes
necessary at any time, go to your uncle. He is wise
and just and a good friend of the family. He will
make a fair and just division of the property.”
Not long after, the old man breathed his last.
For some time all went well with the brothers. They
remembered their father’s last words and lived to-
gether, each attending to his work diligently. Sadhu,
the eldest brother, was a learned man who earned a
good income. The second brother, Radhu, was well-
versed in legal matters and many sought his advice.
He too had a good earning. The other two brothers,
Madhu and Bidhu, were farmers who cultivated the
land belonging to the family. They worked in the
fields from morning till evening, whereas the elder
brothers led an easy life.
The wives of Madhu and Bidhu sometimes
complained about their hard lot. “Why should you
THE MAHAJAN’S SONS
do all the hard work and return home late every day
from the fields? Your brothers also have a share
in the land but they do not help you in the cultivation.
They lead a comfortable life. Why not we divide
the property and live separately?” they said to their
At first their husbands took no notice of their
complaint. But in course of time, they too felt that
what their wives said was not untrue. One day they
told the two elder brothers, “We have been toiling
hard cultivating all the land. This is unfair. We
no longer wish to till your share of ti e land,” and they
declared, “let us make a division of the property.”
Sadhu and Radhu were grieved to hear this. “All
right,” they replied, “if we must separate, then 1 -t us
not forget father’s last wish. Let us go to uncle and
ask him to make the division for us.”
The four brothers went to see their uncle about
this. Seeing them from a distance, he understood
their pu rpose. When they reached his home and bowed
to him, he said, “Welcome my nephews. I know why
you have come. In a dream last night I was informed
of your visit and its reason. But ] do not wish to
go into the matter just now. First refresh yourselves
after the long journey.” So saying, he brought water
for them to wash their dusty feet and spread a mat
on his verandah for them to sit. Then he set food
and water before them. When they were refreshed,
he said, “i know you have come to ask me to divide
your property. Is it not so? I am willing to do it
for you, but before I do it, I have been commanded
in the dream to take you and your wives to Purusliot-
tam 1 for a darshan 2 of Lord Jagannath 3 . Before
1. Another name for Puri, a holy city in Orissa.
2. To see and worship the god.
3. The name means ‘lord of the world*. The image of Jagannath is enshrined
in the famous temple of Puri.
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
we undertake this important work, we should have
the God’s blessings, as is our custom.”
To this, they all agreed and set out on a pilgri-
mage to Purushottam. Having had darshan and
worship, they started off on their way back home.
They had been walking since morning. The day
grew warm and they were tired and hungry. Their
uncle said, “Let us halt here and take some food be-
fore we go further. Let some of you go to the village
nearby and buy some food.” But when they looked
for the money bag, it was not to be found. They
searched and searched but the money bag was no-
where to be seen and they were in great distress. They
wondered how they could get back home without
money to buy food.
At last the uncle spoke, “My nephews, there is
no way out but to earn money to buy food. Now,
each of you go and find work to earn money. Bring
your wages, either in kind or in cash.”
Accordingly, they set out in search of work,
each taking a different road. As Bidhu, the youngest
brother, was going along, he saw a man ploughing a
field. He noticed that the man was having difficulty
with the bullocks. The animals were untrained and
the poor farmer had ploughed little although the
day was far spent. He was at his wit’s end. Bidhu
asked, “Can I help you? I can plough the entire
field in a couple of hours! If I do, what will you
pay me?” The farmer’s face brightened up. He
said, “I shall give you five seers of rice grains and some
vegetables.” ‘This’, thought Bidhu, ‘would be
ample for their mid-day meal’, and he readily agreed.
“That will do. Now, you hurry up and fetch the
rice and the vegetables, while I plough your field,”
he said. After a while when the farmer returned,
the Mahajan’s son had finished ploughing and was
THE MAHAJAN’S SONS
resting under a tree, wiping the sweat off his face.
He received the provisions as his wage and hurried
back to the camp.
On his way, Madhu, the third brother, met a
group of people discussing something near a paddy
field. On enquiry, they told him that they had a
plot of land which always remained water-logged.
Paddy would not grow on it. All their attempts
to drain off water had failed and the land remained
idle. Yet they had to pay taxes to the King. Madhu
offered, “If I tell you how paddy could be grown in
that field, what reward will you give me?” They said,
“We shall give you ten pieces of ulver.” Then he
told them the secret of growing paddy in a water-
logged field. “Make balls of cow-dung and r.irth
mixed together. When they are still wet and t>oft,
put in a few seeds in each of them. After they are
dry, cast them into the field. The balls with seeds
inside will sink into the water, and the seeds will
sprout,” he advised. The men were thankful to
him for his advice and they gladly paid him the money.
With his earning, Madhu hastened back to the camp.
Now, Radhu, the second brother, in his search
for work came across a man sitting under a tree,
looking very sad and dejected. From his clothes,
Radhu judged that he must be a respectable man. He
asked him the cause of his sorrow. The man told
him his sad story, “We are four brothers. When our
father died, we divided the property. Each of us got
equal share. However, there was one black cat
which could not be divided. At last it was decided
that the cat would belong to all, but each brother
would be owner of only one of its legs. To my bad
luck, one day the cat fell from the roof and broke
the leg which had fallen to my share. So it was
my duty to tend the wounded leg. I dipped a piece
of cloth in oil and bandaged the wound. You know
how cats are fond of warmth. While it was sleeping
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
near the hearth, the oily cloth caught fire. The cat
got scared and ran to the hay stack. The hay caught
fire and from there the fire quickly spread and
burnt down many houses nearby.” The man conti-
nued, “The neighbours put the whole blame on me.
They took up the matter to the village Panchayat 1
and it was decided by the Panchayat that because
the cat’s wounded leg, which belonged to me, did
all the havoc, 1 should pay damages. From where
am I to get all the money needed to rebuild their
houses? How can I escape from this?” he sighed.
This was too simple a matter for Radhu, the
lawyer. He asked, “If I get you out of this scrape,
what reward will you give me?” “Oh, if you can really
do that for me, I shall give you five hundred pieces of
silver,” said the man with great relief. Radhu agreed
and said, “Go and call your neighbours and the elders
of the village. I am coming after you.”
When Radhu reached the village, they were all
waiting for him. On the stone platform, under the
spreading banyan tree, the village elders had gathered.
This was the place where the village Panchayat
usually met to settle disputes among the villagers.
Radhu sat beside them. The villagers told him their
complaint. Radhu listened patiently and when they
had finished, he said, “As you all say, it is true
that the cat caused all the damage. It is also true
that the bandage on its wounded leg first caught
fire. Because the cat ran, the fire spread and your
houses were burnt down. But don’t you see that the
cat could not run on its wounded leg? It is the other
three good legs which enabled it to run. So, now
let the Panchayat judge which of the legs caused
the fire to spread. Certainly not the wounded leg!”
Everyone present nodded his head in assent and wonder-
ed at his wisdom. Madhu continued, “It is now quite
1. Village council of elders usually five in number.
THE MAHAJAN’S SONS
clear that the cat’s three good legs spread the lire.
Therefore, the owners of the three good legs are guilty.
It is they who should pay the damages.” The
Panchayat was fully convinced by Radhu’s argument
and decided that the owners of the three good legs
should pay the damages. The owner of the wounded
leg was greatly relieved and his joy knew no bounds.
He gladly paid Radhu the promised five hundred
pieces of silver. Radhu returned to the camp with
In his search for work, Sadhu, J ne eldest brother,
came across a house from where came the sound
of w'eeping. On enquiry, he found that the king’s
minister lived in that house. The minister was in
great distress as he was in danger of losing his life.
The king had asked him to find out the weight of his
elephant. The minister was told that if he could not
give the answer by the following morning, he would
lose his head. He was at a loss and did not know how
to weigh the elephant. He was sure that he would be
put to death the next day. Hence the minister and his
relatives were sorrowful and were weeping. Sadhu
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
went to the minister and asked him, “If I -find out
for you the weight of the elephant, what reward will
you give me?” The minister cheered up and replied,
“I shall give you a thousand pieces of gold.”
Sadhu took the elephant to the riverside. He
then got the elephant to a boat, which sank deep due
to the weight of the elephant. Thereupon, Sadhu
marked the boat up to which it had sunk in the water.
Then he had the elephant taken out of the boat and
asked the men to fill the boat this time with sand until
the boat sank into the water upto the mark he had
made. After this it was quite simple to find out the
weight of the animal. He got the sand weighed on
scales and found that the weight was one hundred
maunds. “That,” he said, “is also the weight of the
elephant.” Everyone marvelled at his wisdom. The
minister was grateful to Sadhu for saving his life.
He not only gave him the thousand pieces of gold but
also showered on him valuable gifts.
After all the brothers returned to the camp with
their day’s earnings, the uncle called them and their
wives together. He spread out the earnings of each
brother and told the two younger brothers and their
wives, “Now, you see for yourselves the difference in
the work and the earnings of the brothers. Do you still
want me to divide the property?” he asked. The
younger brothers and their wives realized their mistake.
They were ashamed and they said, “We do not any
more want the division of the property. We shall be
content to live together.”
The uncle then took out the missing money bag.
He told them, “I purposely hid it and said it was lost
because I wanted you to see for yourselves how much
more your elder brothers could earn with their
NOTHING IS LOST IF GOD SAVES
E VERY year in the month of Kartik, on the day
of the full moon, a fair is held on the bank of the
Mahanadi at Cuttack. The fair is known as the
Balijatra. This fair is very popular and it attracts
large crowds of people to the river-bank. The most
beautiful part of the festival is the floating of colourful
toy boats in the river. On that d'.y, early in the
morning, when it is still dark, both young and old go
to the riverside for bath. After the bath, they light lamps
in the little boats and float them down the r'ver.
Hundreds of these little lighted boats floating on the
river make a great show. It is believed that this
festival of Balijatra is held in remembrance of the
ancient days when, in the month of Kartik , merchants
of Orissa used to set sail to distant islands for trade
and commerce. It brings to mind the prosperous days
when the sea-faring people brought much wealth to the
land . 1
In those far off days, there once lived a Sadhava 2
who carried on a flourishing trade with distant coun-
tries. He was a good man and was noted for his piety.
At that time, Orissa was famous for her fine linen and
brasswares which were popular and much in demand in
distant lands. Expert weavers wove a kind of linen
which was of such fineness that the whole length of a
sari could be made to pass through a bamboo pipe.
This enterprising Sadhava had collected and
loaded his ship with fine linen, brass and silver wares,
ivory and oiher costly articles and he was looking
forward to a successful voyage. In the month of
1. It is a historic fact that merchandise boats from Orissa used to visit Bali,
Sumatra, Java etc. Balijatra means the journey to Bali.
2. Merchant engaged in overseas trade.
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
Kartik, one fine day, he set sail with his merchandise.
The wind was favourable and carried his ship far
into the ocean. But the ship had not gone far on
her course, when suddenly a violent storm swept
down upon them. The wind blew fiercely. The
angry waves rose high and tossed the ship about help-
lessly on the wild sea. Her planks were strained and
soon she began to leak. The sailors did their best to
lighten her by throwing off some of the cargo, but
soon it became evident that the ship was sinking.
To escape death, the Sadhava and his men leaped
from the deck before the ship sank into the sea.
Soon they were separated and were floating on the high
sea. What became of his men, the Sadhava never
knew. With the help of a plank, he swam towards
the far off sandy shore. Sometime later, he was
happy to find his servant, Bajia, swimming towards
him. When they came close together, Bajia cried out,
“Alas, my master, all is lost, all is lost.”
But the Sadhava, who always hoped for the best,
replied, “Do not say so. Do you not see that we are
still alive ? Nothing is lost if God saves our lives.”
They floated the whole night in the water. In the
dark, a fish attacked the Sadhava and destroyed his
eyes. When morning came, the servant looked up
and was struck with horror to see his master’s eyes
gone and blood streaming from the wounds. Bajia
cried out again, “Alas, my master, all is lost, all is lost.”
Though the Sadhava was blind and in great pain,
he said to his servant, “Do not say so. I am still
alive though blind. Remember, if God saves your life,
nothing is lost.”
At long last, both master and servant landed on
the sandy shore. The Sadhava took out a diamond
ring from his finger and handing it to his servant said.
NOTHING IS LOST IF GOD SAVES
“Take this. Go and sell it in the town. It is worth
a thousand gold pieces. Buy some food for us.
Later we can buy a small craft and return home.”
Bajia went with the ring but did not come back.
The diamond was of such value that he was tempted
to run away with it, leaving his blind master to his
Blind and penniless, the Sadhava waited for Bajia
in vain. Some people passing by took pity on the
blind man and took him to the King’s palace. When
the king heard all that had happened to him, he felt
sorry for the poor man and asked him to stay in the
palace. The Sadhava thought for a while and Lien
said, “1 will gladly stay in the palace, Oh King, but on
one condition that you will take my advice before you
do anything important.”
The King was amused at his reply. He wondered,
‘There must be some worth in his words or else he
dare not make such a request,’ and he readily agreed.
He instructed his servants to make arrangements for
the Sadhava to stay comfortably.
One day, a diamond merchant came to the palace.
The King bought from the merchant a beautiful ring
with two glittering diamonds set on it. He some-
how forgot to consult the Sadhava before buying the
ring. The Sadhava felt hurt when he came to know
of this. He told the King, “I should have been con-
sulted before the ring was bought. You did not keep
your promise. I, therefore, do not wish to stay here
The king smiled and ordered one of his attend-
ants to fetch the ring. “Well, well, I am sorry, I for-
got to ask your advice. Here is the ring. Test the
diamonds and tell me if they are good.”
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
The blind Sadhava felt the diamonds ‘with his
fingers. He looked agitated. “The diamonds are
unlucky. They will bring evil. Have them cut in two,
at once, Oh King,” he urged.
When the diamonds were pierced, two evil
looking insects came out of them. “Quickly take
away the insects from here. Throw them in the forest
and see what happens,” the Sadhava advised. No
sooner were the insects thrown in the forest than the
whole forest caught fire.
The Sadhava said, “If the king had kept the
diamonds intact, the whole palace would have been
destroyed by fire tonight.” It was then that the king
realised the worth of the Sadhava.
The king was thankful to the Sadhava for saving
his life and property. In gratitude, he bestowed much
wealth upon him and built for him a beautiful house
to live in. Thereafter, the king never forgot to take
his advice in all matters. The Sadhava settled in the
king’s land and lived happily.
Many days later, there came a beggar to the
house of the Sadhava asking for alms. Recognising
the beggar’s voice, the Sadhava asked, “Surely, you
are Bajia, my servant. Are you not ? How is it
that you are now a beggar ?”
Bajia was taken by surprise. He never thought
that his master would be still alive. He was now
frightened because he was recognised and was sure
that he would be punished. He fell at his master’s
feet and begged forgiveness for his past misdeed.
But the kind-hearted Sadhava said to him, “Have no
fear. I have forgiven you. Look how God has
blessed me. Remember, ‘Nothing is lost when God
A NOBLE SACRIFICE
I T is hard to realize what a real famine is.
There are many tales describing the horrors of
the great famine which raged in Orissa a hundred
For three years together there was no rain. The
wells, the brooks and even the rivers dried up. The
ground was barren and dry and even-where the crops
failed. There was no sowing, n<> reaping. Rice
became a luxury and men began to forget what it
tasted like. Plants, too, were nowhere to be s^en.
Men started eating grass and the leaves of the n’ees
and soon even they became scarce.
As the days and the months passed, the stocks of
rice and grains, which the rich people had carefully
hidden, were also used up. After a while they could
only have a little gruel, hardly enough for them and
their children. Even this could not be had daily.
Men died of hunger. The cry of pain and suffering
was heard everywhere. Many took to begging and
beggars were seen in every village and town.
Hunger and want drove men to behave like
animals. Husbands left their wives, parents forgot
natural affection, and greedily ate away the little food
they could get, without giving any to their children.
Men did not hesitate to kill one another for a morsel
of rice. Houses of rich people were attacked and their
stocks of rice plundered. Whenever it was known
that food was being cooked at any place, bands of
young men armed with sticks would go and snatch
away the food.
Villages were deserted, as the villagers left their
homes to go to the towns in the hope of getting food.
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
But the towns were no better. Even there men were
dying of hunger.
Yet, even in the midst of this grim picture, noble
acts of sacrifice and heroism were seen.
There was a village near Kendrapara, in
the district of Cuttack. There lived an old man
with his wife, his son and daughter. The old man
worked as a daily labourer and, even in the good old
days, was hardly able to make both ends meet. When
famine came, nobody engaged him, and he too, like
many others, became a beggar. His wife and children
also went out begging. Though they begged all day
long, they could get only a morsel of rice sometimes.
Some days, they could get nothing and the family
lived on leaves of trees or grass boiled for their meal.
Often they had to remain for days together without
any food. The old man became weaker and weaker, till
he fell ill and died of starvation. His wife and
daughter became too weak to go out for alms. His son,
Sanatan, who still had a little strength left in him,
now felt that it was his duty to provide food to his
mother and sister. Every day he went round the
village to beg. What little he brought home, he shared
with his mother and sister. Often he would return
home empty-handed. The village folk who had no
food for themselves could offer none to Sanatan.
He then went to far-off villages to beg for food.
One day, he went about begging from village to
village, but got nothing. Yet he walked on and on.
He was too weak to move his limbs but the thought
of his starving mother and sister gave him strength
and he kept on. After two days of wandering in
search of food, he came to the house of a well-to-do
woman. The kindly woman, seeing his shrunken
body, took pity on him. “Son,” she said, “I can’t
give you enough rice to fill your stomach, but take
A NOBLE SACRIFICE
and eat just this much.” Sanatan carefully spread his
cloth on the ground and the kind-hearted woman put
some cooked rice on it. “Eat my son,” she said.
But Sanatan tying it up in a bundle replied, “How
can I eat this ? My mother and sister have had no
food for two days. I will take this home.”
He had a long way to go. He felt tired, weak
and hungry. He walked some distance and rested a
little, then walked again until he could walk no further,
and he rested in the shade of a banyan tree with the
precious rice near his head.
‘Let me sleep a little,’ he said to himself, ‘then
T may be able to walk home to my mother and si: -or.
Oh, how hungry they must be!’
He laid himself down. His weary eyes closed.
Soon he fell fast asleep but that was his last sleep.
Hunger had done its cruel work.
Some time later, people who passed that way
were surprised to see the boy dead even though he had
food with him.
“How could it be,” they asked, “that the boy
died when he had rice to eat? People arc dying of
hunger but tiiis boy is dead with food by his side !”
This was a great surprise to them. But how
could they look into the heart of the dead child which
held more love for his mother and sister than for
HOW KASIA MET KAPILA
K APILA was a Kshatriya. He was quite a
child when his parents died. When he grew up,
he went to work in a rich man’s house. The rich man
had a large herd of cattle and Kapil a was engaged to
look after them. The man had a son named Kasia.
Naturally, the two boys being of the same age, were
drawn towards each other. They spent much time
together, played together and, indeed, a deep friendship
grew up between them. Kasia often went along with
Kapila to look after the cattle.
One morning, the two friends went to the field
with the cattle. It was hot and a wild wind was
blowing. When mid-day approached, Kapila could stand
the heat no longer. Calling his friend, he said, “Kasia,
I feel drowsy. I will lie down under this tree and
have a nap. Don’t go away, but keep an eye on the
cattle until I wake up and in the evening, we will to-
gether go back home.”
Kapila was soon fast asleep and the hot sun was
upon his face. But he was too tired and remained
asleep. While he slept, a cobra came from the jungle
nearby and spreading its hood over Kapila’s head,
sheltered him from the sun’s rays.
When Kasia came to wake up his friend, to his
horror, he saw the dreadful sight. He could do
nothing but stand and tremble. The snake getting
the scent of Kasia’s presence quietly went away.
Now Kasia got courage and running up to his
friend, woke him up. Even before Kapila was fully
awake, Kasia excitedly said, “Oh my friend, what a
danger you escaped from! Do you know, a cobra
HOW KASIA MET KAPILA
was here and had spread its hood over your head while
you were asleep? How lucky you are! The snake
did not do any harm.”
The news of this strange incident spread like wild
fire in their village. Many people said many things.
Some old men gravely shook their heads, and said,
“This is most auspicious for Kapila. It just means
royalty. One day Kapila will be a king. Whoever
heard a snake protecting a sleeper from the heat of
the sun? This is not something which commonly
happens.” Everybody believed tha* Kapila would
one day be a king.
Once Kasia asked Kapila, “Will you forget me
when you become a king? Don’t laugh, everybody
says you will be a king one day.”
Kapila affectionately replied, “How can I forget
you, my friend? When T become king, I will make
you a minister.”
Kapila often wondered whether he would really
become a king. By and by he lost interest in his
work as a cowherd. Not long after this he left Kasia’s
house and secretly went to Puri. At Puri, he wandered
near the temple and lived on the charity of the pilgrims.
At that time Bhanudcva was the King of Orissa.
One day, as he was going round the temple, his eyes
fell upon Kapila. Kapila was good-looking, well-
built and the King took a fancy to the boy.
“Who are you and what are you doing here,
young man?” he asked.
“I am a poor Kshatriya boy,” Kapila replied,
“and looking for work somewhere.”
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
The King was pleased with this answer. “Do
you like to work in the palace?” he asked.
Soon Kapila became the King’s personal servant.
His gentle manners, keen intelligence and hard work
soon made him the King’s favourite. King Bhanudeva
had no son and he loved Kapila as his own son.
‘Why not I adopt him as my son?’ he thought to
himself. As Kings’ thoughts do not take time to turn
into action, Kapila was soon adopted as the King’s
Kapila was carefully educated. Besides books,
he also learnt the art of war and soon become the
captain of the army. He even won some battles for
the King. He thus quickly rose in popularity.
In his last days. King Bhanudeva called his
minister and said, “You all know I’ve adopted Kapila
as my son. It is my desire that after my death lie should
be the King.”
Thus, Kapila, the cowherd boy, over whose head
the snake had once spread its hood, become king at
last and came to be known as Kapilendra Deva.
Kasia, the old friend of Kapila, heard this great
news. But Kasia was still a cowherd. He remem-
bered the promise of Kapila. Many were doubts
as to whether Kapila would keep his word. Now that
he was king, whether he would even know him. But
his faith in his friend made him decide to go to Puri
and meet Kapila. He said to himself, ‘I will go to him
and see if he keeps his word.’
Having come to Puri, Kasia found that it was
not easy to enter the King’s palace. The gate-keeper
would not let him in. Kasia made many attempts to
HOW KASIA MET KAPILA
enter the palace and meet his old friend. But who
would believe the story of his boyhood days and friend-
ship with the King?
Kasia said to himself, ‘But I must see the King
by hook or by crook. Only if I can meet him, all shall
That evening he sat for a long time musing on a
plan. At night, like a thief, he scaled over the palace
wall. Of course, he was quickly caught and produced
before the King the next morning.
“What have you to say for yourseif, you wretched
thief?” asked the King who could not recognise Kasiu.
Kasia stared at Kapila, “Oh King, do you not
recognise your old friend, the cowherd Kasia? Per-
haps, you will know me if I tell you of the snake with
its hood over your head sheltering you from the mid-day
sun. 1 am the same Kasia, your boyhood friend.
Of ten I came to your palace gate and begged to be let
in. I was refused by your palace guards. Then I
decided that I could meet you only if I entered the
palace as a thief.”
From his royal throne the King came down,
embraced Kasia and received him with great honour.
The next day Kasia was appointed as one of the King’s
ministers and his chief adviser.
This was how Kapila made good his promise to
his old friend Kasia.
A LAZY BRAHMAN AND WHAT
HAPPENED TO HIM
L ONG, long ago there lived a Brahman who
was very poor. He earned his living by begging
from door to door and supported himself and his old
mother with the alms he received daily.
One day after wandering from place to place, to
his bad luck, he did not get even a handful of rice.
That day he said to himself, ‘Let me not return home
today with the empty bowl. ?
So he took a different path away from home.
As he walked along, he came across a lake with crystal-
clear water. Now the Brahman was very hungry.
When he saw the lake, he thought to himself, ‘Let me,
at least, quench my thirst by drinking some water
He sat on a stone on the edge of the water. He
stepped down, cupped his hands and raised a handful
of water to his mouth. The thought of food was
uppermost in his mind, and now with each handful
of water he imagined he was eating food. He raised
one handful to his mouth and said aloud, “Now, this
is rice.” With the next handful he said, “This is
curry.” Thus he mentioned names of different dishes
and went on drinking.
It was believed, that in that lake there lived
Mother Ganga. She heard his piteous words. She
could not bear to see the Brahman suffering so much
from hunger. Nothing was impossible to her because
she was a goddess. She took note of all the items of
food mentioned by the Brahman. These different
dishes she put in cups of lotus leaves. Arranging the
A LAZY BRAHMAN AND WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM 81
cups inside an earthen pot, she pushed the pot on the
water towards the Brahman. To his surprise, the
Brahman suddenly found an earthen pot floating
towards him. He pulled it, and lifted the lid and, to
his great joy, saw delicious dishes inside. The pot
was filled with fine rice cooked in ghee, fish cooked
with mustard and garlic, rice-pudding and a variety of
sweets. This was, indeed, a dream to the hungry
Brahman. He looked around to see who was the kina
giver. But not seeing anybody he felt sure that it
was the hand of the Goddess who provided the deli-
cacies. He lost no time in greedily swallowing as much
as he could eat. Much was still left, a id this he carried
home for his mother.
The mother had gone out at that time. On retim-
ing home, she found her son fast asleep with a full
stomach. In the room, she got the smell of good
food and saw an earthen pot hanging from the
beam on a rope bag. She promptly took it out and found
all the delicacies inside. From the backyard, she cut
out a banana leaf and spreading the different kinds of
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
food on it, she ate the best meal she ever hpd in her
Soon the son awoke from his sleep and narrated
to his mother, in detail, the story of their good fortune.
Mother and son were most happy and decided that this
way of getting food was the simplest and the easiest.
Thereafter, the son did not go out begging, but daily
went to the lake and repeated the same formula. The
same result followed. Daily the pot of food came to
him without fail.
For a long time, this continued. Of course, the
Brahman and his mother became well-fed and be-
came more lazy than ever. The Goddess not wanting
to encourage laziness, decided to stop this. Next day,
the Brahman went to the lake and repeated the formula.
The pot came as usual. But when he took off the lid,
instead of the dishes, he found something else. The
pot had been packed full with blows and kicks. As
the lid was lifted, the blows and the kicks fell upon the
Brahman one after another. This went on till he
groaned in pain. Only when he put back the lid, did
the blows stop.
Then, a mischievous idea struck the Brahman,
‘Why should not my mother also share this?’ asked
the Brahman to himself. He carried the pot home,
and hung it as before from the beam. His mother
returning home, quickly took out the pot to enjoy the
good food. But to her horror, instead of the flavour
of the dishes, out jumped the blows and the kicks
and fell upon the woman on all sides. Promptly, she
put the lid back on the pot and carried it to the back-
Not far from her house there lived a rich
‘Mahajan 1 .’ That night thieves broke into the
A LAZY BRAHMAN AND WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM 83
MahajarCs house and stole much gold and silver.
These, they carried and came to the Brahman’s back-
yard to divide the valuables among themselves. One
of the thieves noticed the pot, and being curious,
opened the lid. Sure enough, heavy blows and kicks
rained upon the group of thieves. They were taken by
surprise and did not know where the blows came from.
In their panic, they ran away leaving behind the booty.
As the pot remained open, the blows and the kicks
followed after the thieves.
Early next morning, the Brahm? .i and his mother
were amazed to find the valuables sea tered in the back-
yard. With the treasure they lived happily ever after-
wards. But the lesson of the Goddess was not lost
upon them. They gave up laziness and engaged them-
selves in useful work.
WHAT GOD ALLOWS IS FOR MAN’S GOOD
O NCE there lived a king whose minister was a
pious man. The minister often made pilgrimages
to holy places, and arranged kirtans 1 and palas 2
for the benefit of the people. He even gave away
half of his salary in charity. He had great faith in
God and believed that God is the Protector and Preserver
of all. He is the Father of all men and all are His
children. Whatever God does is for the good of
man. Man often does not understand His ways.
But sometimes, God shows how an evil can turn out
to be good. Even in times of sorrow, the minister
would, therefore, say, “What God allows is for man’s
It was summer time — the season for mangoes.
The King was very fond of this delicious fruit. One
day, while cutting a mango, he accidentally cut off
his little finger. When news of this mishap reached
the minister’s ears, he went to the palace to see the
King. He expressed sympathy and said, “Do not be
troubled, Oh King. What God has allowed to happen
is for your good.”
The King was mightly enraged at his words.
He thought, ‘How dare my minister speak such unkind
words to me! How can the loss of a finger be of
any good to any one ? He does not understand my
pain. Well, I must teach this minister a lesson some
day.’ However, the King did not say anything aloud,
neither did he forget the unkind words of the minister.
One day the King invited his minister to go out
hunting with him. As they went along in the forest,
1. Group singing of religious songs.
2. Acting of religious stories.
WHAT GOD ALLOWS IS FOR MAN’S GOOD 85
the King saw an old well. Thick bushes and creepers
had almost hidden it from sight. The King pretended
to be thirsty. He asked the minister, “Is the well
very deep ? See, if there is any water in it.”
At once, the good man bent down to look into
the well. Quickly the King gave the signal to his men
to push the minister into the well. When the good
man was thrown into the well, the King looked down
at him and sneered: “Let us see if your God can save
you. If not, what has happened tj you is for your
good and you should be content wth your lot. Ha,
ha, ha.” The King then left the place with his
Not long after this, they spotted a stag and gave
chase to it. They followed the animal deeper and
deeper into the forest. All of a sudden, there came
out of a grove, ‘Savaras’ 1 yelling wildly after them.
The Savaras were armed with bows and arrows. They
wore head-dresses of feathers of many colours. Beads
of coral hung about their necks and their bodies were
tattooed from head to foot. They looked so fearful
that the King and his men turned and fled. The
King, however, could not run as fast as his followers.
Soon he was caught by the Savaras. He was bound
and carried by them to be sacrificed before their goddess,
As was the custom among the Savaras, the victim
had to be bathed and prepared before he was offered
in sacrifice. So the King’s body was anointed with
turmeric paste. Vermilion marks were put on his
neck and forehead. A garland of red hibiscus was
placed round his neck. After these were done, they
examined the victim to see if there were any blemishes,
because the victim for the sacrifice should be perfect
1. An aboriginal tribe of Orissa. The Savaras are great hunters.
POLK TALES OF ORISSA
in body. While examining, they found that the King
was without a finger. The Savaras were disappointed
and they said to each other, “We cannot offer this
man with a blemish to the Goddess. She will not accept
the sacrifice and her wrath will be upon us.” Therefore,
they set the King free. It was then that the King
understood how the loss of his finger had saved his life.
He fully grasped the truth of the minister’s words,
‘What God has allowed to happen is for your good.*
The king returned to the palace and at once
sent his men to take the minister out of the well and
bring him to the palace. As soon as the minister
arrived, the King narrated to him how the loss of his
finger had saved his life from certain death. “How
truly you said, ‘What God allows is for man’s good’.
I did not understand your words then and treated you
so cruelly. Please forgive me, ’ ’ said the King.
The minister was greatly touched and replied,
“Oh King, do you not see God’s hand in our lives?
You have done no wrong by casting me into the well.
That has saved my life too. God has not only saved
you but also saved me from the hands of the Savaras.
If you had not thrown me into that well, the Savaras
would surely have taken me and offered me in sacrifice,
for I have no defect in my body.” He further added,
“Everything that God allows is for our good.”
WHY THE MISER LOST HIS WEALTH
G OPI SAHU was a rich money-lender, who owned
much landed property. He was a miser who loved
money more than anything else in life. He was
ever eager > to recieve but never willing to part with
even a paisa.
Gopi had a number of labourer., working in his
fields. He was a cruel taskmaster, v, ho exacted work
from the labourers but grudged paying them their
due wages. Sometimes, he would put off payments
for days together. The poor village folk suffered
much on this account.
Sura, one of his labourers, had no other means
of income except the wages he earned daily. Often
a whole week would pass off before he would get even
a day’s wage from Gopi Sahu.
The poor man’s misery knew no bounds. One
day, there was no food at home. At the end of the
day, he went to the rich man and begged for his wages.
The miser, unwilling to part with money, said, “1 can’t
pay you today. I am very busy just now. Come
to work tomorrow and I’ll see about it.”
Sura explained, “There is no food at home.
My children have been without food since yesterday.
Please give me, at least, one day’s wage now, so that I
can buy some rice and salt.”
Gopi pretended to be busy and waving his hand
at the labourer, said, “Go away, and don’t trouble
ine.” And he quickly went inside the house.
That very evening, news reached Gopi Sahu
that his crops near the forest were being damaged by
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
wild boars. On hearing this, Gopi said to ‘his wife,
“Get ready my dinner soon. I am going out to the
forest to keep watch over the crops tonight. I’ll
not only guard the crops, but I may also be able
to kill a wild boar or two and bring home the meat.”
“Don’t go alone. Take someone else with you.
It is not safe to be in the forest!, the whole night, all
by yourself,” advised his wife.
“Foolish woman, you don’t understand. If
I take someone with me, won’t he also share the
meat if I kill a boar ? That’s why I’ll go alone. Don’t
fear, I can take care of myself. I’ll spend the night
up a mancha '. No wild animal can attack me up
It was a dark night. Gopi was sitting on the
mancha built on a huge banyan tree. The forest
air was filled with the cries of the wild beasts. Sudden-
ly, he heard a rushing sound as of many winds. The
place was lighted up and he saw a strange sight.
Once a week the gods were wont to assemble
at the foot of the same banyan tree with Brahma
presiding, to hear reports of the three worlds— heaven,
earth and the underworld. Messengers from the
three regions brought reports to Brahma.
Brahma asked, “Oh messengers, what news
have you brought from the three worlds ?”
The messenger from heaven spoke first. “The
inhabitants of heaven are happy and contented, my
Lord. There is nothing special to report,” he said.
1. Elevated platform used for protection and in shooting wild animals.
Why the miser lost his wealth
The messenger from the underworld reported,
“My Lord, dwellers of the underworld are content
with their lot and there is nothing special to report.”
The messenger from the earth spoke last. He
said, “AH is well on earth, oh Lord, except in one village
people are suffering due to the cruelty of a miser.
Some are even going to lose their lives due to his
“How is this? Explain,” ordered Brahma.
“There is a money-lender w : io has acquired
much wealth. He is miserly and does not regularly
pay his labourers They have not got their v iges
for the last seven days. One of them who has seven
mouths to feed, is now in great distress. He lias
no money to buy food for his starving children. They
will soon die if something is not done at once,”
replied the messenger from the earth.
Brahma’s heart was touched when he heard
this. At once, he ordered the messenger, “Take
this bag of gold pieces. Make an opening in the
roof of the poor man’s hut and pour the gold through
it. That will save him and his family and provide
for them in plenty.”
With this, the assembly of the gods came to an
end. Well-hidden in the banyan tree, Gopi heard
Gopi hastened home early in the morning and
quickly sent for Sura, the labourer. When Sura
arrived, he welcomed him warmly and said, “I am
sorry I sent you away last night without paying you
your wages. Now I want to give you not only your
wages but also make a gift of my big house to you.
I have lived here long enough. I am tired of its
POLK TALES OF ORISSA
luxury. Hereafter, I wish to live in a small cottage
and spend the rest of my life in meditation. Here is
the money for your wages. Take it and come and
stay in my house with your family and I’ll go and stay
in yours. Let’s make the exchange at once.”
Sura, who had known Gopi all along as a bad
pay-master, was now completely taken aback at this
grand offer. He did not know what to reply and
feebly said, “What will a poor man like me do with
such a big house !”
“No, no, I’m serious. I truly want to make
a gift of the house to you. From this moment this
house is yours. Move in here with your family
today before nightfall and I’ll go and occupy your
cottage,” said Gopi.
Sura was overwhelmed at this unexpected good
fortune. The change was soon made. Gopi found
himself in Sura’s cottage before sunset, exactly as he
Gopi was so impatient to get the bag of gold
that he could not wait for Brahma’s messenger to
come and make a hole through the roof of the cottage.
He brought a ladder, climbed up himself and carefully
removed some of the thatch, thus making a big hole
in the roof. Vainly, he waited the whole night looking
up for the gold to come down.
The messenger, however, came with the bag of
gold, but finding Sura’s cottage occupied by another
man, returned without dropping the gold. Thus a
whole week passed, and every night the messenger
came and returned with the bag of gold.
At the next assembly of the gods, Brahma asked
the messenger from the earth, “Have you delivered
the bag of gold to the poor labourer?”
WHY THE MISER LOST HIS WEALTH
“No, my Lord,” replied the messenger. “Every
time I went to the cottage with the gold, 1 found it
occupied by the miser himself. He has exchanged
houses with the labourer in the hope of getting the
gold himself. Now the poor labourer lives in comfort
in the miser’s big house.”
B rahma was happy to hear this. He said, “Now,
our objective has been achieved. There is no further
need to deliver the gold at the cottage.”
Gopi spent many sleepless nigh.s in the cottage
vainly staring at the roof for the precious gold to
arrive. But as there was no sight of the bag of gold,
it struck him, at last, that the gods might have char jed
their plan. Again, his feeble conscience smote him
and he asked himself, ‘Is this my punishment for
my hard-hearted treatment of those who worked
under me?’ He thought, ‘Surely, the gods are dis-
pleased with me. 1 have led a selfish life all through.
Now, 1 must do something to gain peace of mind.’
Gopi left home and went on a long pilgrimage.
THE STORY OF RAMDHOL
T HERE was a time when Orissa was divided into
many princely States'. Ram dhol was the brother
of a ruler of one such State. He lived in the royal
palace and led a life of ease and comfort. Good food
and costly clothes and companions to play with, made
his days enjoyable and care free. But his happy
days soon came to an end. His brother, the Raja,
died suddenly. The new Raja hated Ramdhol and
treated him with suspicion. He feared that Ramdhol
might rise against him and attempt to dethrone him.
Soon, Ramdhol’s allowance was stopped. His ser-
vants left him one by one. He found it hard to make
both ends meet. He and his wife were reduced to
very bad straits.
At last, Ramdhol’s wife, who was a sensible
woman, said to her husband, “The new King does not
want us here. He will starve us to death. Don’t
you think, it is dangerous to stay here any longer?
Let us leave this place and go elsewhere. It will also
be easy to work where people do not know us. So
let us move over to the neighbouring State.”
One dark night, they secretly left the palace.
All night long they walked ana before dawn,
they crossed over to the neighbouring State. They
kept on walking until they were very tired. As the
morning advanced, the sun became too hot and find-
ing a stream by the wayside, they stopped for rest.
They were hungry and too tired to walk any further.
Just then, they heard a cry. Someone was selling
puffed rice — “Puffed rice, hot and crisp”. They bought
1 . The feudatory States of Orissa were liquidated along with the other
feudatory or princely States of India.
THE STORY OF RAMDHOL
some. Ramdhol’s wife made a little bowl of lotus
leaf to hold the puffed rice and placed it on the bank.
They were hot and dusty and wanted to bathe before
eating the puffed rice. While they were bathing in
the stream, unknown to them, a snake went up to
the bowl and poured its venom into it. Soon after,
the king’s elephant came that way and was attracted
by the puffed rice. The elephant was eating it all up,
when Ramdhol, finding their precious little food
gone, got furious and struck the elephant with his
fist. Hardly had the elephant taken a few steps be-
fore it fell down dead. The mahout 1 as v, ell as Ramdhol
were amazed at the sight. The huge animal actually
died of poisoning, but they believed that it died of
‘What great strength this man has !’ thought the
mahout. Let me run for life, lest I too, fall a victim
to his blow.’ And he ran for his life. He went to
the Raja and said, “Sir, I saw a strange sight — a
man so strong that with one blow, he killed your
The Raja was astonished to hear this. The
loss of his elephant did not seem to worry the Raja.
Instead, he became curious to see the man who could
kill an elephant with one blow.
‘It would be wonderful,’ he thought, ‘to have
such a man, with such strength under my service. My
enemies would be afraid of me.’
He said to his servants, “Go and bring him to
me at once. Let us have him at any cost, for such a
strong man in our service will be a terror to our foes.”
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
So the Raja sent his attendants with- the royal
umbrella and palanquin 1 for Ramdhol to be brought
to the palace with pomp and honour.
When Ramdhol arrived, the Raja received him
with great honour and said, “We are pleased to have a
warrior like you. We admire your strength and we
shall be happy to have you in our service. We will
make ample provision for your comfort.”
Ramdhol was surprised beyond measure at the
turn of fortune. He replied, “Nothing can give me
greater pleasure than to be of service to you. Sir,
your servant humbly accept the honour.”
Thereafter, Ramdhol had nothing to worry about.
He became well-known throughout the State as one
who had killed an elephant with a single blow. His
days passed by happily.
The two neighbouring States were often at war
for their claims over some villages on the border.
Sometime after Ramdhol was taken into the Raja’s
service, war broke out between the two States. Both
sides were equal in strength. But the Raja under
whom Ramdhol worked, was very confident of victory.
Was not Ramdhol a warrior whom none could face?
The Raja called him and said, “Ramdhol, I appoint
you as the captain of my army. You will lead my
soldiers to battle and, I am sure, we will win with
Ramdhol was completely taken aback. He could
think of no way of escape and nodded assent. He
returned home and narrated everything to his wife.
“I am now in a fix. With your advice I left my country
and came here. Now, what am I to do ? I have never
\ . Covered litter carried by four men.
THE STORY OF RAMDHOL
held a sword in my hand, never in my life have I gone
to the battle-field, leave alone leading an army. If I
disobey the King’s order, I shall lose my life; if I go to
the battle-field I shall get killed. Tell me now, what ’
is to be done. How can I escape from this ?” he asked. *
His wife replied, “Be brave, have no fear. With
a little commonsense and a little courage, you will
succeed. I will tell you what you should do. Go,
and ask the King to give you a horse which has never
been harnessed. Get also a sword and a long rope.
I’ll tell you what to do.”
Ramdhol got all that he wanted from the King.
He said, “Sir, permit me to go ahead and let the ar uy
Next day, at dawn, Ramdhol’s wife woke up,
had her bath and performed puja. Then with sandal-
wood paste, she marked her husband’s forehead and j
prayed for victory.
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
Romdhol had never before sat on horseback,
neither had he held a sword in his hand. His clever
wife therefore set him on the horse and bound his legs
to the animal. After this she handed him the sword
and whipped the horse from behind. Enraged, the
animal galloped at terrific speed. The soldiers mar-
ched behind the drummers. The noise of it all threw
the untrained horse into panic. In wild haste, it
ran towards a grove of palm trees. As the animal
passed through two palm trees standing side by side,
Ramdhol feared that he would be dashed to death
against them. Forgetting that he was bound to the
horse, Rambhol, in great fear, clutched at the
trees with each of his arms. Luckily the palms
were old and rotten and were easily uprooted.
Thus, Ramdhol presented a formidable sight
to the enemy. He looked like Bhima, the great hero
of the Mahabharata 1 . The very sight of a man on
horseback advancing towards them, holding a palm
tree in each arm, put the enemy to fright. The enemy
hosts turned and fled. Ramdhol and his men
pursued them and killed many.
In triumph, Ramdhol returned from the battle-
field. He was given full credit for the victory. The
Raja was immensely pleased with him and bestowed
on him handsome rewards.
1. The great Indian Epic.
FOUR RULES OF CONDUCT
I N the village of Madhupur, far in the interior,
there once lived a Brahman named Harihar. He
was very poor. True, his father had left him some
property. But, as is well-known, laziness is such that
it would eat up anything and leave the owner in misery.
Harihar was a lazy man. Bit by bit, all that he had
went for sale and in the end, he and his wife had
nothing to live upon.
Basanti, his wife, was a spirited woman and con-
tinuing want made her more spirited. She gave no
peace to Harihar. “You sluggard, why do you want
to kill your wife with hunger?” — were the words
that were often heard in that little hut. Poor Hari-
har, what could he do? His wife’s words were hard
but true. For a few days, he bore it all silently. But
as her misery increased, Basanti’s angry words
became sharper than arrows.
One morning, the lazy Harihar took courage in
both hands and started oiT. His anger had roused
him and he repeatedly said to himself, ‘I will go to
the wide world and try my luck.’
In his wanderings, he met a hermit. The good
man had the reputation of reading the minds of men.
“Oh friend,” he said, “you look so miserable! What
is the matter with you?” Intently he looked at Hari-
har’s sunken cheeks and understood everything.
Before Harihar had started describing his miseries,
the kind-hearted hermit invited him to his ashram . 1
There the two lived together, the hermit sharing with his
friend the alms he received during the day.
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
In this way, days passed by. The hermit, how-
ever, could not long tolerate Harihar’s laziness. His
pity for the Brahman soon faded out.
“Look here, my friend,” he said to the Brah-
man, one morning. “Laziness has no place upon
this earth. If you try, you can surely make a living
for yourself. Take my advice and you will never be
in want. I give you four good rules of conduct.
Bear these in mind and act accordingly,
‘Toil like a pariah.
Eat like a Rajah,
Speak not the truth to womanhood.
To the king, never tell falsehood’.”
Harihar took the advice and treasured all the
four tips in his memory. ‘How can I ever forget these
sayings?’ he said to himself. The hermit has said
that they will give me food, drink and all that I need.
Wonderful words that will change my future.’ Re-
counting in his mind these words, Harihar started
off from the ashram and took the road to the nearest
As he came nearer, he saw a big crowd and
coming up, saw the dead body of a man lying by the
side of the road. The headman of the village seemed
to be in distress. He did not know how to dispose
of the dead^bodyjbf a stranger.
“No one knows who the fellow was. If we can
only find out the caste of this wretched corpse! No
one wishes to touch it,” said the headman.
“How can we perform the funeral rites of one
whose caste is not known ?” shouted the young men
FOUR RULES OF CONDUCT
“But we cannot allow the body to be lying in
the street,” replied the headman.
Harihar, who heard everything, understood the
situation. He remembered the first advice of the
hermit — ‘Toil like a pariah’.
He moved forward and said, “I will do the job.
How much will you pay me ?”
The villagers were happy at this. Soon a collec-
tion was made and the headman ha ided five rupees
to Harihar. Harihar shouldered the dead body and
alone marched off to the village cremation ground . In
the usual way, he arranged the fuel and placing the
dead body on the top, set fire to the wood. Quickly,
flames rose up and reached the matted locks of the
dead body’s head. Harihar nearly fainted with
excitement at what he saw. Real gold mohurs 1 fell
down from the burning locks. With what joy his greedy
hands grasped this treasure ! The dead man, who was
a thief, had hidden the precious gold in knots in his
Harihar became suddenly rich and he blessed
the hermit a thousand times. He lost no time to go
back to his wife. ‘How happy she would be ! There
will be plenty and no more want. Surely, my wife
will dance with joy,’ thought Harihar.
Wealth made Harihar discreet and shrewd. He
did not squander his money. But, of course, he
and his wife ate good food. Had not the hermit given
him this tip as his second advice ? Harihar and
Basanti lived' a comfortable life. All their needs were
fulfilled. They ate rich food and this attracted the
envious eyes of the neighbours, who wondered at the
sudden prosperity of Harihar.
1. Gold coins.
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
“Was not Harihar a poor man just the Other day ?
How is it that he eats better food than any of us?
Wherefrom does he get money for all this?” they
asked one another. But, they could not find any
clue to this mystery. Harihar had acquired not only
wealth but also wisdom and he was tongue-tied.
Basanti’s friend, Nilambari, felt envious at the
sudden good fortune of her friend. She was deter-
mined to find out the secret.
“Come to me tomorrow morning, Nilambari,
and I will tell you everything,” said Basanti.
That night, Basanti with a sullen face asked her
husband, “Am I not your wife? Why do you hide
things from me ? You never told me wherefrom you
are getting money for all the good things we en-
joy and the good food we eat. Do I deserve this
The hermit’s third advice came to Harihar’s
mind — ‘Speak not the truth to womanhood’. The
hermit’s words must be acted upon. He cooked
up a story and said to his wife, “Why, it is very
simple. But it is a great secret. Mind, you should
not utter a word about it to anyone. If one eats
Kochila 1 fruit mixed with jaggery, lumps of gold will
come out of his mouth. Look, I warn you, don’t
tell the secret to anyone.”
Basanti was very happy and needless to say,
Nilambari got the secret the next morning. Eagerly,
Nilambari met her husband and told him every-
thing. That same night, her husband took a heavy
dose of Kochila mixed with jaggery. In a couple of
hours, the poison started to work and the poor man
1. Kochila is a poisonous fruit.
FOUR RULES OF CONDUCT
groaned in pain. Nilambari stayed closed to him
By the bed-side waiting lor the precious metal
to come out of his mouth. As death pangs came near,
his pains increased and he groaned more and more.
‘Surely, now the gold will come out. His stomach
is aching to throw it out,* said Nilambari to herself.
The poor man was dying but Nilambari’s expect-
ations were growing. After some minutes of intense
struggle, his mouth widened and the last
gasping breath left the poor man’s body. Nilambari
started up to grasp all the gold and stared at her hus-
band for some time. The motionless b :ad with the pain
marks all over, loudly told its story and even Nilam-
bari’s clouded mind understood it. She cried, “Oli
my husband. Oh my husband. Where is the -old
and where are you ?”
Her loud weeping soon drew a crowd around
the dead man’s body. The villagers who gathered
round, became suspicious and one of them observed,
“Why, only a few hours ago, he was as fit as he could
be I With my own eyes, I saw him briskly returning
from the field and now I see a dead body ! Surely,
there must be something behind.”
Another said, “I am certain, somebody has
“Wait a minute,” said the village physician.
“Don’t you see his mouth? Isn’t there a blue tinge
in his lips?” Then looking closely at his eyes and
cheeks, he gravely said, “I have no doubt that this
is a case of poisoning. If I am proved wrong.
I’ll give half my property. The village physician’s
finding convinced everybody present that it was a
case of poisoning.
“There can be no second opinion,” said the
headman of the village and stepping into the next
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
room, he called Nilambari and asked her, “Woman,
speak the truth. This is a serious matter. Tell us
what food you gave him and what he ate tonight.
Mind, if you tell lies, you will be punished.”
Nilambari narrated all that she had done and
quickly enough she was taken to the Raja for punish-
Sternly the Raja looked at Nilambari and said,
“Why have you poisoned your husband and what
did you profit thereby?”
“Oh Raja,” said the weeping Nilambari. “I
am an unfortunate woman. I did not kill my hus-
band. I never thought that he would die. It all
happened this way. My friend Basanti and her husband
were once poor. Suddenly they became rich. I asked
Basanti wherefrom they got the money. She en-
quired from her husband and told me, in great confi-
dence, the secret of their sudden wealth. She said
that her husband ate Kochila fruit mixed with jaggery
and real gold came out of his mouth. I am a cursed
woman. Why did I believe her? I gave Kochila
and jaggery to my husband and he died. Now I
wish I were dead too. Oh my husband,” she wept
The Raja became furious and immediately sent
for Harihar and his wife.
“You scoundrel, you are meant for the hang-
man’s rope”, he roared at Harihar.
Harihar knelt down before the Raja and said,
“Sir, be patient and hear my story. I was a poor
Brahman, daily toiling for a little food but even that
did not fall to my lot. One day, I met a hermit and
the learned hermit gave me four rules of conduct:
FOUR RULES OF CONDUCT
‘Toil like a pariah,
Eat like a Rajah,
Speak not the truth to womanhood,
To the king, never tell falsehood.’
I treasured in my mind these words of wisdom and
vowed to follow them.”
Then step by step, Harihar narrated how at
every stage, obedience to the counsel of the hermit
brought him good fortune.
“When my wife pestered me to reveal the secret
of my wealth, I followed the hermit’s third rule of
conduct — ‘Speak not the truth to womanhood’.
Accordingly, I told a lie to my wife. At the time,
I little knew that the result would work out in death
to an innocent person. Sir, I have narrated truthfully
everything in obedience to the fourth rule of conduct
given to me by the hermit — ‘To the king, never tell
falsehood’,’’ concluded Harihar.
The Raja was greatly amused at this story. He
forgave Harihar and sent him away.
On the way, while returning home, the Brahman
again repeated in his mind the four rules of conduct.
‘Aha, how learned and all-knowing the hermit must
be! Thrice blessed be my Guru 1 , who gave me such
unfailing rules of conduct’. Musing these words,
Harihar returned home.
MAN’S DESTINY IS NOT IN HIS HANDS
O NCE there was a Raja whose name was
Jayadeva. He had many Pundits who attended
his durbar. But there was one in his kingdom who
was very learned but outspoken. He would not flatter
any one, nor would he go to the king’s durbar and sing
liis praises. The Raja was annoyed and one day,
calling him, angrily said, “You think you are very
learned. But who cares for your learning outside
my durbar ? Do you realize that without my favour
no one will respect you?”
The proud Pundit would not be cowed down.
He answered, “Sir, you are mistaken. A Pundit is
a Pundit wherever he may be just as a Raja is a Raja
wherever he goes and will receive a Raja’s honour.”
“What? Dare you retort like this to a Raja?”
he roared and calling one of his guards ordered that
the Pundit be immediately taken and kept in prison
until his words were proved true, otherwise he would
be put to death.
The next day, Jayadeva left his palace secretly
and went out in disguise to prove the truth of the
In the course of his journey he came to a jungle.
There was a tree in which a bird had built its nest.
A huge snake was crawling up the tree and was about
to devour the young ones. Moved with pity, the
Raja killed the snake and cut it to pieces with his
Soon the parent birds returned to the nest with
food for the young ones. Before taking the food.
man’s destiny is not in his hands
the young ones chirped, “Mother, mother. What
a danger we escaped from ! There down below,
the wicked snake is lying dead. It was about to eat
us up. Even as its jaws were wide open to devour us,
this kind man killed it and saved us.”
The parent birds said to each other, “Let us do
a good turn to this man. He has saved our little
ones.” The grateful birds, then said to the Raja,
“Follow us, Master, and we will repay your great
They led the Raja to an as hr a n l in the jungle,
where a hermit was in meditation. The Raja bowed
before the hermit and prayed for a boon. The hermit
handed him a twig, saying, “Take this twig. It will
enable you to take any shape you wish and you can
also be yourself again when you so desire.”
With the magic twig in hand, Jayadeva resumed
his journey and came into the territory of another
Raja, by name Kesari. Raja Kesari was boastful
and thought much of himself. He did not believe
in God and thought that as a Raja he was all-powerful.
He had a daughter, who was his opposite in nature.
The princess was humble, kind-hearted and devout.
She spent much time in worship and meditation.
Naturally, there were frequent arguments between
father and daughter, who did not agree on many
One day, at the end of a heated talk, the Raja
declared in a fit of anger, “Look, I know not about
your God. You are in my hands. I can make you
a queen or a beggar just as I please.”
“Certainly not, father,” replied the princess.
“As a Raja, you may think that you are all-powerful,
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
but please do not forget that you are merely a' man and
therefore subject to Destiny.”
In a fit of anger, to show that he could do
anything, the Raja immediately ordered that his
daughter be married to a blind beggar. Cheerfully,
the princess accepted her fate. She lived with her
blind husband in a cottage and looked after him.
One day, to her great joy and surprise, the blind
man suddenly turned into a handsome prince. The
prince was no other than Raja Jayadeva, who had
transformed himself, with the aid of the magic twig
to the blind man.
Joyfully, Jayadeva and the princess went to
Raja Kesari. There Jayadeva narrated his story.
Raja Kesari was happy to meet his daughter and
to know that he had actually given the princess in
marriage to the handsome Raja Jayadeva, instead
of to a blind beggar. He understood that his daughter
was right and that man is subject to Destiny. He
now declared, “Surely the destiny of man is in the
hands of God. We can do nothing by ourselves.”
Raja Kesari had no son of his own, so he adopted
Jayadeva as his son. Thus, Jayadeva became ruler
of both the kingdoms. He now realized the truth
of his Pundit’s words that a Raja will be a Raja where-
ever he may go, and that a Pundit will be honoured
as a Pundit wherever he may be.
Thus, the Pundit’s words proved true. Realizing
the truth and the wisdom of his words, Jayadeva went
back to his state, released the Pundit from prison and
gave him numerous rewards.
PUNISHMENT FOR BREAKING A VOW
B ISHNU Sahu was a rich merchant of Jaipur.
He was hard-working and thrifty and gradually
became rich and richer. Soon the story of his
wealth spread far and wide, but along with his wealth
his miserly habits also became widely known. All
who knew him spoke of him as the Miser of Jaipur.
Bishnu’s mind was always on his ricKs, so much so
that he ate as little as possible and saved as much as
he could. He had no children and people wondered
for whom he was amassing all the wealth. Bisl uu
did not understand why people talked about his riches.
‘Surely, it’s none of their business. What I save is
my own and I am master thereof. No one need poke
one’s nose into my affairs,’ he said to himself.
One day, while bathing in the village pond, he
noticed a date palm full of ripe dates. ‘Surely, I
can save my lunch today if I can fill my stomach with
the dates,’ he thought.
Bishnu looked around to see if anyone was present
and finding none, he climbed up the tree. As he stretch-
ed forth his hands to pluck the dates, the slender palm
began to sway dangerously because of his weight.
Bishnu was greatly frightened. ‘There is nothing
more precious than life,’ he said to himself and he
prayed, ‘Oh gods, save me. If I live and get home
safely, I will feed 1 a hundred Brahmans.*
Trembling with fear, he slowly climbed down
a few steps. Then he looked at the ground which
was not very far below. He got a little courage
and the cost of feeding a hundred Brahmans vexed
1. A custom with the Hindus— a religious act supposed to propitiate the gods.
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
him. Quickly, he changed his vow. ‘I will feed* Brahmans
all right, but not so many as a hundred. Fifty of
them will do.’
Soon he came further down the palm tree and
the ground looked rather close. He had no fear of
death now. He became bolder this time. ‘I won’t
die if I fall down from here. Feeding fifty Brahmans!’
He thought to himself. ‘Why? It would cost me
such a lot! With half that money, I and my wife
could live for several months. But a vow is a vow.
I will not break my vow and I will feed five Brahmans.’
Quickly, he came further down and his feet
almost reached the ground. ‘Feeding as many as
five Brahmans! What waste of money! But I will
not break my vow. I will feed one Brahman only.
I don’t mind the cost,’ he said to himself.
With a heavy heart, he came along the village
path calculating how much he would have to spend
to feed a Brahman. He thought, ‘A Brahman eats
quite a lot. How can I do it cheaply ?’
But his conscience said, ‘A vow is a vow. I
will not break my vow,’ he said to himself. ‘I will
feed a Brahman, surely, but I will invite one who suffers
from stomach trouble and cannot eat much.’
On reaching home, he thought of Gobinda
Misra, a Brahman, who was known to be suffering
from colic pains frequently and Bishnu invited him
to a meal one day.
On the appointed day, Bishnu had to go out on
work. So he called his wife and instructed her,
“The Brahman is coming today. Feed him well and
give him also two or three coppers as dakhina . 1
See that he goes satisfied.”
1. Gift of money given to Brahmans^
PUNISHMENT FOR BREAKING A VOW
Gobinda came all right, but he would not eat.
He said, “I have colic and I can’t eat I will take only
my dakhina. I want a hundred silver coins.”
“A hundred silver coins!” exclaimed Bishnu’s
wife, staring at the Brahman in surprise. “How can
The Brahman replied, “You see, I cannot eat
and I will take only my dakhina. You can not refuse
that to a Brahman whom you have invited. Unless
you give me one hundred coins, 1 am rot going to leave
There was nc escape for Bishnu’s wife. Besi ies,
she remembered her husband’s words — ‘send the
Brahman satisfied’. So, she reluctantly counted out
the money and Gobinda Misra went home satisfied.
Bishnu, on his return, was shocked to learn that
the Brahman had taken away as many as a hundred
silver coins. He was so pained at this that he nearly
fainted. However, he soon recovered from the shock.
For a long time, he showered abuses upon his poor
wife. The woman’s only excuse was, “You wanted
me to send him satisfied and he insisted upon a
hundred silver coins.”
The merchant soon made up his mind to go to
the Brahman and recover the money. ‘One hundred
silver coins! One hundred silver coins! I must get
back the money,’ he muttered to himself. Taking
his umbrella, he started for Gobinda’s house.
When Gobinda saw the merchant from a dis-
tance, he quickly went inside the house and tried to
play a trick on him. He rolled himself up in a mat
and feigned illness. He asked his wife to sit near his
feet ana loudly moan over his sickness.
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
Accordingly, when Bishnu arrived at* Gobinda’s
house, the latter’s wife was crying loudly, “Woe unto
me ! What am I to do if my husband dies? Why did
he go and eat in that miser’s house? How many
times I asked him not to go there! But, oh my fate,
my cursed fate, he would not listen. What wretched
food he ate there, that he suffers so ! What am I to
do if he dies ? Oh, my cursed luck! Oh, oh!”
Soon the neighbours gathered to console her.
“Look at my fate,” she cried again. “I will go to
the Raja and tell him everything.” Bishnu was
frightened out of his wits when he heard these words.
From the crowd came whispers, “Miser, heartless
man, murderer, to treat a Brahman guest thus!”
‘How am I to escape from this danger?’ Bishnu
asked himself. Then an idea struck him. Quietly,
he went into the room, slipped his gold ring into the
woman’s hand, whispering in her ears, “Please, be
quiet. Take this and don’t cry any more.” Then
he left Gobinda’s house as fast as his legs could carry
Perhaps, the miser would have spent very much
less if he had kept his first vow and fed a hundred
THE TWO FRIENDS
M AGUNI and Gokuli were deeply attached
to each other. Maguni’s father was a weaver
and Gokuli’s father was a blacksmith, who lived next
door to the weaver. Being neighbours and of the same
age, Maguni and Gokuli became great friends. They
played together, roamed about together and often
went together fishing in the village ^ond. Stealing
fruits from orchards was their favourite pastime.
However, the bond between the boys was not love
but just mischief.
When they reached school-going age, their
parents put them in the village school and hoped that
in due course, the boys would apply their minds to
their studies. But the lads hated the school and
studies. How could they catch fish in the village
pond if they went to school in the morning? Catching
fish was delightful, but the school was dreadful.
Every morning the boys disappeared pretending that
they were going to school. But they were seen during
school time in others’ gardens or wandering in the
neighbouring wood. When their parents discovered
this, it was really too late. Maguni and Gokuli
often got beatings from their fathers, but no amount
of punishment could change their ways.
At last, the boys felt that their fathers did not
understand them. “They have no sense ,” said Maguni,
“they don’t understand such simple pleasure which
“No, they don’t,” rejoined Gokuli. “My father
even beats me for this. I don’t like being beaten every
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
“Nor do I,” promptly responded Maguni. “We
must do something about it.”
Thereafter, the boys planned to run away from
their homes. Swiftly, the plans were put into action
and one morning, without anybody’s knowledge, the
boys left their homes. The morning air was cool
and refreshing and they were happy to be free. They
talked of the future. They were sure that they could
manage very well and earn a living for themselves.
“Certainly,” said Gokuli, “if we work, we can
earn much. ’
“Yes,” rejoined Maguni, “and without scolding
They passed through many villages and came to
one, where they saw a house which had a big garden
and a large cowshed. There, they asked the owner,
a rich farmer, for work.
“What work can you do, my boys ?” asked the
“Any work you are pleased to give us,” replied
The farmer, who was in need of workers, straight-
way engaged them and promised to pay them well.
He led the boys to the cowshed and turning to Maguni,
he said, “All my cows have been taken out for grazing,
except the one there in the corner. I want you to be
in charge of this cow and take out it to graze every
morning and bring it back in the evening. Can
you do this?”
THE TWO FRIENDS
Maguni proudly answered, “Sir, I have sometimes
looked after my father’s cows and to manage a single
cow is nothing for me.”
Then the farmer led Gokuli to his garden and
pointing at a mango tree, said, “I want you to water
this tree. It should be so well-watered that the ground
around the tree should always remain damp.”
Gokuli smiled and said, “Watering a^ single tree
is only child’s play. I can do it very easily.”
The next morning, the two boys started olf for
the day’s work. Maguni went to the cowshed Mid
loosed the cow expecting for himself an easy day and
a long mid-day nap. Little did he know what troubles
awaited him, for the cow was an unmanageable one
and was a problem to its owner. Therefore, great
was his surpise when the cow darted off like an arrow
the moment it was let loose. Maguni ran after it
with all his might. Soon, the cow jumped over a
fence and trampled the young cucumber plants.
The owner, seeing this, came out of his house. Angrily,
lie looked at Maguni and threatened to beat him.
The next moment the cow ran off to a banana
orchard and pulling at the leaves, destroyed a number
of plants. The gardener came running with a big
stick and chased both the cow and Maguni. It is
not easy to say whether the cow or Maguni ran faster.
But, Maguni’s sorrows were not ended. The
cow went to a paddy field. The watchman threw
stones at the cow and abused Maguni calling him
Finally, late in the evening, with tired limbs and
bruises all over his body, Maguni with difficulty
managed to return with the cow. He was angry
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
with the cow, angry with himself and angry with the
‘I am the unlucky one,’ he said to himself.
‘Gokuli must have had a grand and easy time resting
in the shade of the mango tree.’ An idea struck him.
‘I will change places with Gokuli tomorrow. I will
not tell him the nature of this wretched cow. I’ll
give him a happy picture of this day. Surely, he will
agree to take on this job tomorrow,’ thought Maguni.
Poor Gokuli ! From the deep well, he pulled
water in a heavy brass pot and poured it at the foot
of the mango tree. Once, twice, thrice ten
times, but with no result. The tree did not look
sufficiently watered. More and more water he poured,
but in vain. The thick coir rope with which he drew
water, hurt his palms. As he continued pulling
potful after potful of water, blisters formed in his
palms. The pain was intense, but how could he stop
without finishing his job? Wearied beyond measure,
his arms aching with pain and with blistered hands,
Gokuli returned in the evening.
But, Gokuli was not behind Maguni in craftiness.
‘I must get this job changed,’ he said to himself. ‘I’ll
tell Maguni what an easy time I had. How in a short
while, I watered the tree and had a long nap in the
Thus, the two friends met, each with his own
secret plan. First, Maguni gave a rosy picture of the
great time he had with only one cow to look after.
“Listen Gokuli, I’ll take a charpoy 1 tomorrow and
enjoy my mid day nap like a prince.’’
J. Light bedstead used in India,
THE TWO FRIENDS
Secretly, Gokuli envied Maguni’s happy lot, but
consoled himself, ‘I’ll sleep on that charpoy tomorrow
and not Maguni!’
With glowing words, Gokuli described his own
happiness. “What a grand time I had today,” he
said, “with nothing to do. Now, tell me Maguni,
how long does it take to water a single mango tree?
I poured three potfuls of water and had all the time
to myself. Now I wish you could enjoy it too!”
“Wonderful. Let’s change places tomorrow,”
Needless to say that the crafty plans of the two
friends were put into action the next day. When
morning came, with a cheerful heart, Gokuli started
off with the charpoy on his head. But the moment he
untied the cow, the inevitable happened. Frantically,
he ran with the charpoy on his head. Running behind
such a cow was bad enough, but with the load of the
charpoy it was still worse. With the cow fleeing
before and the foul abuses behind, Gokuli ran all the
day from orchard to field and field to orchard. He
was a picture of misery.
Of course, Maguni fared as miserably as Gokuli,
doing the impossible task of watering the mango
When they returned in the evening, each was
angry with the other. But was it not true that each
one had deceived the other? Realizing this, they
promptly forgave each other and became friends once
again. Then their fertile brains worked out their
“Well, Maguni,” said Gokuli, “I think there
is a pit near the mango tree. I suspect some treasure
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
hidden in that pit. Let us dig under the tree and if
1 am correct, then our future is made.”
In the night, after everyone was asleep, the
lads went to the garden and started digging under the
mango tree. Gokuli dug and Maguni took out the
earth and put it away. Soon they made a wide and
deep hole. Then suddenly, Gokuli’s spade hit some-
thing hard. T think, I have hit the treasure pot,’
thought Gokuli. ‘If 1 hand over the pot to Maguni,
he may run away with it, leaving me in this pit.’
“Will you come down and dig, Maguni? 1
am too tired to dig any more,” said Gokuli.
Maguni, at once, jumped into the pit and lifted
Gokuli up. As Gokuli had planned, Maguni
dug out the pot and handed it to him from below.
Quietly, Gokuli walked away from that place and
started running with the treasure.
THE TWO FRIENDS
Poor Maguni called him from the pit, but there
was no response. He could not even shout lest the
farmer and his men should wake up. With great
difficulty, Maguni crawled out of the pit and stood
alone near the mango tree with only darkness around
him. Where was his friend? Where had he gone
with the treasure? Suspicion and anger worked in
his mind and he ran in search of Gokuli. After a
while, Maguni found Gokuli, but as both were rogues
and the fact well-known to each of them, they quickly
decided to let bygones be bygones.
Together, they sat by the side r i a well to divide
the treasure. The well was an old one and lay unused
for years. Even two neem trees had grown inside ii.
Maguni thought if somehow Gokuli were got ri : of,
all the treasure would be his. No sooner did this
thought enter his mind than he planned to get rid
of the other.
“Gokuli,” he said, “I wonder if there is water
in the well. It looks so old and unused.”
Saying that there might be water, Gokuli leaned
to look into the well, when Maguni gave him a push
from behind. Down went Gokuli headlong into the
well and sure death would have been his fate had
he not been luckily caught in the strong roots of one
of the small neem trees inside the well. There he
was stuck up and thus escaped death. The wicked
Maguni merrily walked away with the treasure.
At midday, two witches came to the well and
sat unseen on the other neem tree. They were sisters.
They soon started a conversation.
“What is all the news,” asked the younger witch.
“News! I am full of happiness. Have you ever
seen the beautiful daughter of the Raja? Her life is
FOLK TALES OF ORISSA
in my hands now. I have afflicted her with ap incur-
able sickness. The Raja hopes that his daughter would
recover. He has engaged the best physicians of the
land. But the girl is doomed. She is sinking day by
day and in three days time, she will be dead.”
“What?” queried her sister. “Do you mean to
say that in this wide world, there is no remedy for her
sickness? What is this strange disease?”
“]’ alone, know the cure,” replied the elder witch.
“The remedy is very simple, but the Raja’s foolish
physicians do not know it. Only three leaves from
one of these neem trees can work the miracle. The
girl has to only smell the leaves.”
Gokuli listened attentively. He was excited.
He was happy beyond measure that he could do what
even the Raja’s physicians could not. When evening
came and the witches left the place, with great effort,
Gokuli crawled out of the well. With three neem
leaves in his hand, he forthwith made for the Raja’s
place and boldly announced that he could cure the
The Raja, who had tried all remedies in vain,
gladly allowed Gokuli to treat the princess. The
princess got well after Gokuli’s magic treatment.
There was great festivity in the palace. The Raja
was beside himself with joy. Gokuli was young and
good-looking and the Raja decided to give the hand
of his daughter in marriage to him. A week after the
recovery of the princess, the wedding was celebrated
with great pomp. Gokuli became the Raja’s son-in-
law. A grand palace was built for him and the princess,
where they lived happily.
In the meantime, Maguni, who had run away
with the treasure, had prospered much by investing
THE TWO FRIENDS
it in business. His boats carried merchandise to
distant lands across the seas.
Once, Maguni was shipwrecked near a seacoast
and was cast ashore. Not far from where he
lay unconscious, stood Gokuli’s palace. The news of
a man lying unconscious on the seashore, was brought
to Gokuli by servants. Hastily, Gokuli came to the
seashore and whom would he meet but his old friend
and childhood companion, Maguni! The sight of his
friend melted Gokuli’s heart and this time with sincere
affection, he welcomed Maguni to his home. Misfortune
and suffering had chastened Maguni’s heart and he had
understood that evil doesn’t work and its fruits ire
always bitter. Thus the two friends were <uly
reconciled this time and lived together.
Often, their talks would reach the midnight hour,
when the two sat together and recalled old memories.
At last they realized the value of sincerity and truth
1. Lokagalpa Sanchayana by Dr. Kunja Behari
2. Utkala Kahani by Sri Gopal Chandra
3. Ama Odissa Kntha by Sri Sridhara Das.